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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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giving thanks

Giving Thanks and Giving Gifts

This time of year – this week in particular – is my favorite time of all.  When the warm hues of Thanksgiving, the ambers and pumpkins and wines of the fall, begin to fuse with the rubies and emeralds and bright whites of winter. This week, my two favorite holidays meet and marry.  This week, everywhere I look, whether store front or home front or big screen TV, I see Thanksgiving and Christmas mixing and mingling in wild, jovial abandon. It’s a riotous party of flavors and jingles, snow men and smoked turkeys.

And amidst all the colorful, flavorful, frantic confusion, amidst planning for the sweet potato soufflé and shrimp and grits dressing, the pomegranate punch and cranberry bliss bars, my feverish excitement grinds quickly to a stop as I catch my newsfeed…

There are so many sad songs, near and far, both local and global, all incredibly personal and profoundly painful. And the holidays make the pain that much greater, the suffering that much stronger. There are so many lonely and broken souls.

I want to wrap up the world in a great big mama hug and serve it shrimp and grits dressing and warm pecan pie. I want to give slippers and smooches and soft flannel sheets. I want to soothe the suffering and swaddle the sad.

But I can’t. I’m not big enough. And it wouldn’t be enough.

And I want to fight the world’s evils with a wooden paddle and some feisty written word. Take aim at the evils with spirit and spunk and a good dose of mama rage. I want to call out the injustices and eradicate intolerance. I want to convert the callous and shame the shameless.

But I can’t. I’m not big enough. And it wouldn’t be enough.

I feel like the grouchy ladybug. None of us is ever big enough. We are never big enough to end the world’s suffering. To take away the pain and the loneliness and the fear and the sadness.

But I can love. I can love on those closest to me.

I can pour love and prayer into them — into my family, my friends, my students, my husband’s players. I can love them, and I can pray for them.

And I know sending love and prayers has become much maligned in recent years…

But I believe in the power of love and prayer. They are gifts that can move mountains, mend fences, heal heartbreak and soothe souls. They are the tender mercies that speak to and comfort the weary.

And those, plus food, they are my gifts. They are my gold, my frankincense, and my myrrh.

They are what I have to give.

I give my thanks, and I give my gifts.

 

A Little Allegory of a Parent’s Soul

To introduce the concept of allegory to high school students, I use Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” It is the first book I ever remember receiving as a gift. I still have that original copy. It’s inscribed with a birthday wish and a life blessing. Its edges are tattered and curl softly from use, and its insides are  tatted up from Crayola abuse.

I loved “The Giving Tree” from the beginning, although I didn’t understand its complexity back then. Instead, I loved it for its simplicity and purity — the modest black and white sketches, and the story of the tree who loved a boy – loved a boy from every depth and breadth and height her soul could reach.

A boy and his tree. I loved it. But I didn’t get it. I didn’t.

And then I became a mom.

And KA-POW! – deeper understanding hit me like a felled oak straight to the noggin. This wasn’t merely the story of a boy and his tree. I mean it was, but darn, it was so much more, too! It was a little allegory of a parent’s soul. And for the first time ever reading that story, I cried. And ever since, every single time I read that story… I cry. I can’t even read the last line, I get so choked up.

The truth and power of its message gets to me: the unhesitating willingness of a mama to hew off whole parts of herself to raise up her young with the necessities and tools to survive in this world.

Like I said, I introduce the concept of allegory to my high school juniors – and they can see it, the multiple meanings hidden in its seemingly simplistic lines. They see the sacrifices the tree makes to keep her boy happy. They see her wide-open love through the gifts of her leaves and her apples; they see the unflinching sacrifice of her limbs and her trunk; and they think they understand the final grand gesture in the giving of her shriveled, old stump. Yes, they can definitely see it. And they think they get it. They interpret the allegory in one of two ways…

Some of my students connect it to parental love – those blessed enough to have parents who have shown them true, unconditional love.

But sadly, some don’t get it at all because some of my students haven’t felt that sort of love from their moms and dads. The stories I hear — the stories I see – students whose parents have left them surfing couches in friends’ houses, students whose parents are locked away in jail or whose love is locked away in addiction, students who are parenting siblings — students mere saplings themselves — playing the role of the Giving Tree.

It’s an impossible task for them. They lack the depth and breadth and height of maturity: their leaves are too tender, their fruit is too green, their roots are too shallow to support and sustain another soul, much less themselves. Their stories are enough to crack open a planet-full of hearts and send them weeping.

And speaking of planets… some of my students see another allegorical interpretation: humanity’s blatant misuse of Mother Earth and her resources. In this version, the boy takes and takes and takes with no regard for the Giving Tree’s sacrifice – the more he needs, the more he takes until there’s nothing left but a shriveled-up stump – and even that gets used.

And yes, the depletion of our planet’s resources is a valid and compelling argument — easily seen and scientifically supported, regardless of those who might say otherwise. And in this political climate – when the Environmental Protection Agency is being run by a fossil fuel magnate and the current POTUS is playing a nuclear-annihilation game of chicken with his Asian doppelganger, it is an interpretation with grave importance.

But I prefer the little allegory of a parent’s soul. And I really do believe it was Silverstein’s intent. Because after each sacrifice, after each leaf and apple and branch and trunk that is taken, his prose simply reads: And the Tree was happy.

And the earth cannot be happy being plundered and pillaged. That just cannot prove true.

But as a parent, that happiness statement rings true every single time. When my girls need me. When my boys need me. When my small and humble breasts sustained them all as infants. When my wide and ample hips carried them all as toddlers. When my long and lanky arms surround them as both youngsters and adults. When my eager, willing heart beats for all four of them always and forever with joyful abandon… I am happy.

For them, I would give all. Willingly. And happily.

That’s how I know “The Giving Tree” is a little allegory of a parent’s soul.

This past week, I introduced my boys to Silverstein’s masterpiece – my original, 45-year-old birthday book, its edges all tattered and curled from use, its insides all tatted with Crayola abuse. My boys were mesmerized. They loved it: the simplicity and purity of its prose, the modest black and white of its sketches.

This story of a tree who loved a boy is timeless. This story of a tree that readily hands out huge chunks of herself never gets old. The tree herself may get old. She may lose apples and branches, and her tattoos — if she had any — may wrinkle like that ME + T heart scratched into the core of her being, but no matter what, if her kid finds happiness, that tree finds happiness.  No matter the hardship, the struggle, the pain…

Yes, my boys loved the book.

And this tree was happy.

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Fertility Godmothers: Egg Donors (and Surrogates)

Some people claim the good old days are long gone. I call Bull Shenanigans. According to those folks, people used to be more trustworthy, more helpful, and more neighborly. You could “always depend on the kindness of strangers,” to borrow a Tennessee Williams’ quote. And speaking of borrowing, if your hens weren’t laying and you wanted to bake a cake, you simply garnered a couple of eggs from a buddy down the block. And if you needed some assistance — raising your barn or raising your kids — someone always came through.

Now I haven’t raised any barns recently, but I am raising twin boys – which takes a hell of a lot more strength and manpower, let me tell you – and folks always seem to come to the rescue. Take this past Sunday afternoon. We were at a local burger joint when one of the boys, who was curled up on my lap feeling crummy, managed to knock over my drink, giving both of us an ice bath. Before I could even react, a mother at the next table jumped to the rescue, swabbing us with napkins and then going for reinforcements when it became obvious we would need a warehouse-full. So don’t tell me chivalry is dead.

And while people have performed random acts of kindness since time immemorial, only in this day and age have those acts been granted an international day all their own. But kindness is not relegated to a single day. You constantly hear and read about layaway Santas, drive thru do-gooders, and animal shelter altruists.

What really elevates this era from the ones that came before it, though, is that the whole neighborly trait of lending a cup of this or a couple of that when you’re in need has moved beyond simple, farm-variety produce. In this beautiful, postmodern world, you can borrow eggs to bake up a cake or you can borrow eggs to bake up a baby. Seems to me that’s taking the whole “kindness of strangers” notion and knocking it up (you see what I did there?) a notch.

I like to think of the IVF process as a pantry to pregnancy revolution (rather like the farm to table one in food). And I guess that makes our boys a sort of revisited and reinvented version of the Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa classic:

Take a cuppa sperm, well beaten 😊 and a coupla eggs, borrowed.

Mix well.

Marinate 5 days. Transfer resulting coupla embryos to clinically preheated oven.

Bake 9 months, and… VOILA!

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Now, I don’t want to mislead you — IVF isn’t that simple. And it certainly isn’t as failproof as the time-honored Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa cobbler recipe. It takes a carefully calibrated oven and experts who’ve undergone years of rigorous training to ensure just the right amount of salts, sugars, amino acids and proteins are in place during prep and baking.

Nor do I mean to make light of infertility or the expensive and excruciating journey that comes with it, a journey that is so full of loneliness and uncertainty. There are no guarantees. But there are options. If your fertility quest is hitting roadblock after roadblock, please remember that there are generous strangers out there — fertility godmothers if you will – ready to lend their eggs or even their wombs (one of my former students has offered her uterus as a surrogate on two separate occasions) for struggling couples.

Three years ago, I was able to bake up some babies with a fertility godmother’s healthy, young eggs, my husband’s sweet sauce, and my own reconstituted oven. The effect of one anonymous stranger’s generosity and the amount of gratitude in our hearts for her sacrifice  is impossible to put into words. She made our dreams come true.

I believe in the magic of kindness and the kindness of strangers. Put those two things together and miracles occur. Living, breathing, Cuppa Coupla Coupla miracles. If the glory days are in the past, then the hallelujah days are in the present. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.

Amen and pass the cobbler.

 

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An Ode to My Windy City Whirlwind Tour and My Perfect World Back Home

I just returned from a weekend get-a-way to Chicago. Me. Leaving twin toddler threenagers and a curmudgeonly dachshund with spiteful shit tendencies at home with my husband. What was I thinking?

I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking my sis and I hadn’t had a girls’ trip in over ten years. I was thinking I was in dire need of some breathing space, a massage therapist’s table, and a cocktail or two on a rooftop bar.

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And I was thinking I was leaving my boys with their father. A father who is no rock star. Or bionic man. Or superhuman specimen. Although I tend to think so. Nope, he is a dad. But not JUST a dad – for there is no such thing. There are wonderful dads — capable, organized, efficient, loving co-parents. And there are terrible dads – disconnected, disinterested, uninspired biological sperm donors. And there are all those who dot the continuum from wonderful to terrible and back again. The same goes with moms. But my boys’ father – he sits at the very top end of that number line. He is a wonderfully capable, organized, efficient, and loving co-parent. So, guess what?

I had an absolute blast. I didn’t worry. I didn’t fret. I didn’t leave frozen meals in the fridge and emergency contacts on the counter. I didn’t call him every three minutes to make sure he knew not to forget sunscreen or to give them too many sweets or too much screen time. I knew that he had it all covered: the Friday school routine, the Saturday morning pancakes and the Sunday Frozen film fest. I knew he could sail smoothly — well, maybe not smoothly (there’s no smooth sailing with twin boys) — but he could at least sail confidently through all the random tantrums, dirty diapers, snotty noses, and snotty attitudes that our darling twosome could serve up. And they can certainly serve up a lot. But he had it. Asthma regimen – no problem. Bedtime and bath – no sweat. Stealthy wiener dog thievery and rapidly-scarfed-down happy meal nuggets – well, that may have ruffled his sails for a second, but still. He had it.

And like I said, I had a blast. My sis and I were ready to cut loose. We crammed as much into three days as humanly possible. The first night housed a gala – complete with hair and makeup and champagne on serving trays. And dancing. Lots and lots of dancing.

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The next morning held a detoxification massage (not that we had any need for a detox). But let me take a small second to tell you about this massage. I’ve had rubdowns (not like my sister, mind you She’s had basically every make and model from Swedish to Shiatsu) but both of us would argue that no massage compares to this massage. It’s like being melted down and remolded out of myrtle and cypress and juniper berries.  It is seventh heaven on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons Chicago. Go there. Yesterday.

And speaking of the Four Seasons Chicago – they know how to pamper an exhausted twin mom/end-of-the-year schoolteacher and her kid sister who has her own special set of challenges and fatigues. We were spoiled senseless. We consumed flatbread sculptures, ate hand-rolled truffles, drank gingerbread tea, sipped three-olive martinis, slept on marshmallow mattresses and consumed room service before a window that reigns supreme o’er the Windy City. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality.

Nor can I thank my sister enough. She is my mirror twin, separated by four years. We are opposites. I am quiet, she is… not. She brings light and laughter everywhere she goes. When she turns it up, the world dances to her energy. I tend to sit back in the shadows. I enjoy naps and home. But last weekend, she plugged me into her electrical current and we bathed in the bright lights of the big city. We took a river tour and learned about the history and skyline. We had guitar solos played for us at Buddy Guy’s. And we rubbed shoulders with giants – literally. The Celtics were staying at our hotel and we bumped into their seven-foot-tall frames and their family members at every turn. I am now rooting unabashedly for Boston in the post-season because of the cutest three-year-old daughter of Jay Crowder and his beautiful wife. They shared their enthusiasm for Disney and her daddy as we sipped our gingerbread tea.

 

And finally, I can’t thank my husband and boys enough.  They hung back here in the big city of Euharlee eating the unexceptional provisions of a middle-class pantry and the Big Arches drive thru, while I gallivanted around Chi-town consuming deep dish pizza and five-star cuisine. My fellas are the ones who truly spoil me rotten. They shower me with love, and with hugs and kisses, and with the occasional bodily fluids (different fluids from different fellas ;b), and their love outshines all the fine-dining and relaxing massages and super shiny skylines in the world.

I thank them super very much a lot for loving me enough to let me leave them for a weekend. Especially to Mike. He handled everything with the dexterity and talent of a dad — a capable, organized, efficient, loving (and might I add, sarcastic — see above spa-parody pic) co-parent. And while the Four Seasons was leaving perfectly molded mints beside my meticulously fluffed and feathered guest bed, my dachshund was leaving perfectly pinched turds beneath Mike’s and my comfortably rumpled marriage bed. And yes, Mike handled that, too. I most humbly thank him for loving me enough to handle even that. He is way too good to me.

 

The Queen of All Besties

I have this Bestie… She’s the absolute best of the Besties. She’s the Louise to my Thelma. The Lucy to my Ethel. The Bert to my Ernie.  She completes me. Not in the Tom Cruise/Renee Zellweger kind of way. Tom Cruise makes me cringe and my Bestie LOVES, LOVES, LOVES Kenny Chesney. She never would’ve left him after a mere six months of marriage. She would’ve made that matrimony work, I’m certain. Nope. Definitely not Cruise and Zellweger kind of “completes me.” More like coconut and cream makes the complete and perfect pie kind of way (which just so happens to be her favorite). I’m the coconut. Flaky and scattered. She’s the cream. Flawless. Her skin is flawless. Her character is flawless. Her grammar is flawless. I’ve never seen her make a mistake. She is on point. She is on fleek. And SHE would never, ever, never ever use a cliché. She’s that flawless.

She is my better half. The Yin to my Yang, the sweet to my sour, the Felix to my Oscar. The Jesus to my John the Baptist. As in I’m the crazy one with the locusts’ legs snagged in my teeth and my hair all cattywampus. And she is perfection incarnate. Her hair is never out of place — could be because she shaved it when her mom was battling cancer – because she’s that flawless and that perfect. I’m telling you, she’s a saint. Her smile is beatific. It can work a room like an epiphany, showing everyone in it their worth and their potential. She sparks. She galvanizes. She emboldens. She is the Queen of Inspiration.

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She has taught me how to teach. Without her, I wouldn’t be half the educator I am. She focuses me. She drives me. She writes my rubrics for me. You see, I have a very big weakness. I love ideas. I love concepts and creative outlets and projects that glitter and gleam. And she does too. She sees the big, conceptual picture, too — but she also sees the bottom line. She grounds me. Without her, I would be a nebulous cloud of creative ca-ca. But she reigns me in and funnels my creativity into legitimate, effective, measurable methods of teaching. She’s detail-oriented and fundamentals-focused and together, we plan and coordinate units like gangbusters.

Our classrooms are across the hall from each other and have been for the last thirteen years. Even though we are opposites, we have one common denominator: love for our students. We believe building relationships builds success. Learn your students – who they are, what makes them tick — and they’ll learn the curriculum. Stay motivated and they will too. And nothing motivates me more than my Bestie. She’s the Queen of the Go-Getters.

Without my Bestie, I would only be half the mother I am today. No lie. Like, literally half my children wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t have married Mike and I wouldn’t have had my beautiful twin boys. She orchestrated that. She took it upon herself to caulk up my cracks and teach me to trust love again. She watched Mike and me chat over tuna fish sandwiches and kimchi in the break room at lunch and decided that my faulty connections and his crooked wires could be a thing. A real, bonafide, working thing — full of electricity and light.

You see, despite my dreamy, visionary nature, I never saw Mike’s and my potential. But my Bestie did. She saw a future in an instant – a jaeger-soaked, mistletoe-marked instant – and she pushed me toward my ultimate Carpe Diem. My moment of a lifetime that spun into a postmodern family of a lifetime. And what did I manage to do for her in return? On that most magical of semester-ending, happily-ever-after, holiday nights, what did I do for her? I got her drunk. Fall-over-the-sofa-in-a-riotous-splatter-of-giggles drunk. For the first time in her life drunk. Did I mention I’m the bad influence in this relationship? She comes out on the short end of our friendship stick every time. Still, she sticks with it (pun intended) because she’s the better person. I’m telling you, she’s absolutely perfect.

And without my Bestie, my life wouldn’t be half as amazing. It just wouldn’t. We share secrets and laughs… and the most ridiculous homecoming costumes in the history of the high school homecomings. There is nobody else on this earth who makes me act a fool quite like her. Nobody. Throughout our years in the hallowed halls of Woodland High, we have dressed as Gangsta rappers, Oompa Loompas, Lady Gaga, Hungry Hippos, dinosaurs, ninja turtles, the Kool Aid Man… I’ve even been the Wicked Queen to her Magic Mirror (I told you I was the bad influence…). We are the silliest and the stupidest and the absolute awesomest when we’re together. We go on road trips together and have girls’ nights together and sing karaoke and eat double doozies and watch football together.  We talk books and husbands and children and politics and obscenities together. Nobody can conjugate, triangulate and cross pollinate cuss words like we can. We are profanity in motion. Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer would toast our talents. (My Bestie never cussed before me, either.  Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the worst influence of them all…

Now my Bestie has been there for me for such a long time. She was there to teach my daughters, and she was there to help me birth my boys. She has helped me solder my past and helped me forge my future. She has taught me to wield love every second of every minute of the present. She is perfection. I wish there were some way that I could pay her back for all her lessons, all the blessings she has shared. It is an impossible task.

But today, on my Bestie’s birthday – her first birthday without her beloved mother, the mother who granted her all her glorious ways of loving and teaching and sharing and laughing and being – I just want to tell her how very much I love and appreciate her. How much I know she’s hurting. How much I know she misses her mom. And how much I wish I could ease her pain.

To my Bestie: with your birth, your mom gave the world the kindest, warmest, most luminous and learned soul I’ve ever known. You brighten our planet with your smile and with your love. You do your mother proud with each soul that you touch. And you touch so many. Mine is simply one among them all. But you… you are one in a million. I love you, my Bestie, the Queen of my heart.

Happy Birthday.

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My Aunts in Shining Armor

This week, we celebrate love. Love of all kinds: the wild and passionate kind, the tender, soulmate kind, the playful, puppy kind, and even the Netflix and chill kind. Regardless of the kind of love we celebrate, we tend to show our love through food: chocolate dipped strawberries, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, red and pink Starbursts, candlelight dinners. Tomorrow, my husband and three of my four babes will be gathered around my table. (I wish my baby girl could be here, but she’ll be snuggled in with her own lovely little family, so that’s okay – plus, I’ve sent some surrogate love to be delivered to her doorstep). As a mother, I can hardly wait to bask in the glow of family and food tomorrow night. And while I’ve been combing my recipes searching for something extra special to fix, I’ve run across certain dishes that remind me of three extraordinary women in my life… women whose love and sacrifice have made me who I am today.

These women creatively acquired me through the bonds of blood and grit and good, old-fashioned love. These women took me in and made me their own. They taught me to know my potential and to believe in it. They taught me that women are strong. That women are powerful. That women are capable. They taught me that women have a voice and that we should use it. These women are my aunts — my three graces, my three fates, my three wise women. And the recipes that remind me of them are as deeply rich and provocative and inspirational as my aunts themselves…

First, there’s my Aunt Jan and her “Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie.” It’s the perfect blend of glistening, syrup-soaked berries steeped in puddles of juice under clouds of whipped cream. I have no idea who Mrs. Norris is, but I’m here to tell you that this pie is my Aunt Jan in a pastry shell.  It perfectly parallels her zany, vibrant nature. She’s sweet and tart and sparkling with pizzazz. She’s never met a stranger and she’s never been ignored. She taught me to make this pie during what I call “The Summer of Grandma” – a two-month stint during which my cousins and Jan and I built pie after pie in a humid, east Tennessee kitchen trying anything and everything to get my grandmother to eat. She was slipping away from us, but she still had a hankering for sweetness. And so we built pies. Pecan pie. And Chocolate pie. And Lemon Meringue — so high and coiffed that women in Texas could likely haul pictures to their hairdressers as inspiration. And finally, Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie – the Mother Superior of pies – just like Jan, our family matriarch after my grandmother passed away. The baton was passed, and Jan became our pulse and our promise. She’s a talker and she’s a doer. If you want it coordinated and you want it done, call Jan. And she’s a lover. When she hugs you, you find yourself wrapped in clouds of pillow-y bosoms, which she inherited from my grandma (and which, I might add, skipped me in the gene pool). And you find yourself believing in rainbows and unicorns and holy grails. Because Jan makes the impossible possible. She is quick-witted and confident, and she’s always been my biggest cheerleader. She pushed me and pulled me and pep-talked me into going back to school. Through her, I learned to trust in myself and the God-given gifts that she assured me I had and that I needed to hone. Without Jan, I never would have trusted my mind or my voice. She taught me that what I think and feel matters. She pushed me to tell it like I see it and to hold strong to my principles. She made the impossible possible in me.

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Now, Jan’s twin sister Ann isn’t much of a baker. Instead, she sticks to main dishes, and she’s most famous for her tenderloins stuffed with apples and pecans and fragrant herbs – a savory, nourishing dish indicative of her steady, nurturing soul. Ann and I have some sort of kindred connection. I felt it from the first time we ever sat down and REALLY talked – on my grandmother’s front steps after I was deposited there by a distant father in a diesel Isuzu and a feverish faith. Ann and I played with kittens and plotted the trajectory of my life on those semicircle steps beneath the crab-apple stone siding and cedar shingles of my grandmother’s house. Ann embodies most closely who I truly am: intuitive and observant, reserved and resilient, capable and calm. Her eyes are still water on stone, are snow clouds at dusk – and when they meet mine, they see things. Things hidden in shame or for protection. But with Ann, every trembling, buried burden or bruise is safe. It is better than safe – it is healed. Because she has a ministering nature that soothes and mends. It was her job. Literally. She is a retired ER doc, and I promise you, she did more than heal bodies in her years of service. She calmed hearts and settled souls – mine included. I wouldn’t be where I am today, without her.

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And finally, there’s Pat, Ann’s wife, and my aunt by marriage. Pat is our family’s Tupelo honey. Her voice is southern nectar and so is her love. She never has a negative word to say to or about anyone. She sweetens the lives of all of us by spreading her joy and her sweet, sanguine good sense. Any recipe with honey, honey bun to  hotty toddy, reminds me of my beloved Pat. Lover of animals and humanitarian causes alike, she is generosity and goodness with a smile carved from moonstone and a heart made of gold. My fondest memory of Pat is when several of us piled into a car to take a little trek over the mountains and through the woods– in a snow storm– to visit the Biltmore House. The roads grew slushy and slippery, and Pat’s mother, who was ailing at the time, grew car sick. When we pulled to the side (more like slid to the side) of the interstate, her sweet, ailing mama proceeded to lose her dinner, right along with her upper teeth.  Pat sweetly swiveled her back into the backseat and then paddled through drifts of snowy vomit in search of the delinquent dentures. That is Pat: unflappable, ever capable, and always willing to go the extra mile for family. She is as warm and soothing as  Tupelo honey. Her love glows deep and rich, and she moths us all to hearth and home with her warmth. She has always encouraged me to dream big and to reach high, but to never lose touch with my roots – because family feeds the soul.

And thanks to my family — and particularly my three incomparable and beautiful aunts — my soul is full to bursting and my cup runneth over.

I know what true love feels like. It feels like family. Happy Valentine’s Day!

My Championship Scrapbook

Before the week’s over, I’ve decided I must try to put down in words just how profoundly moving this past Saturday and the championship game was. It’s an impossible task.  No matter what I write, I end up deleting and beginning again. Words fail me. Poetry was what it was, and what it needs to be. Accompanied with music. With secret notes and chords that only heartbeats can create – a community of them pounding and tripping together in a giant cacophony of joy and thanksgiving. That’s what I need.

But all I can provide is a collage of images — images spliced and woven and blended into snapshots of prose.

I’ll begin with the Send Off, the team spilling out of a decades-old field house built of brick and mortar — and hopes and dreams, faith and sacrifice, sweat/blood/tears, hard work and long hours — and onto three chartered buses headed for the Georgia Dome. The morning was cold — cold like Packers’ fan cold (at least in my temperate Southern soul, I feel like it was). Family and friends puffed misty breaths and wiped misty eyes as they saw their fellas off. A drone buzzed overhead. Blue lights flashed, sirens whooped and horns answered.

And our team rolled out of the drive and into their destiny.

Next, a caravan of coaches’ wives saddled up and snaked down I 75 in pursuit. And not just wives. Whole families of Canes, with uncles and cousins. Newborns wrapped in swaddles; toddlers strapped in car seats; in-laws riding shotgun. We stopped for a fast-food lunch and an impromptu hair painting session about five miles from our destination. Purple hair was chalked enthusiastically into brunette, blonde, and ebony locks, alike. We wives wear our war paint with a difference.

We arrived in a rush of purple and gold — the cold air driving us into the Dome in waves. Security stations clogged and cleared; corridors and vestibules clumped and pooled at restrooms and concession stands.

But once we finally found our way through the maze of masses, we spilled into a vast pulsing chamber, charged with the butterflies and beating hearts of teenage boys and full grown men. Above us, the webbed Dome with its striped steel arteries. Below us, the green field with its striped, segmented planes. This was the stage where truths are told. Where legends unfold.

I spied my husband in the visitor’s tunnel. Instantly, my belly felt fizzy and my eyes blurred with love and pride. I was so nervous I could puke.

Once the game was underway, though, I felt better. Kickoff calmed my jitters.

What followed was a three-hour exercise in purple and gold dominance. Touchdowns tumbled into our hands. Forced fumbles fell at our feet. Our opponents, known for their run game built on the shoulders of beast mode running backs, met a defensive front far stronger than any they’d encountered before, smashing their feeble attempts at smash-mouth football.  By the time the clock was run down and the championship sewn up, the scoreboard glowed 58-7.

“We did it.”

That was the text my husband sent me from the box. The text that caused my breath to snag and my heart to hiccup. I love that man. As in, super very much a lot. I didn’t know it was possible to love with a love like ours. And so, to know that this man’s wildest football dream had just come true. That it had just swept into our universe on a perfect storm of Hurricane proportions, left me breathless. Left me teary. Left me humbled.

scrapbookstatechamps

How did I ever get so lucky?

Heaven has been generous to us this year. Blessings abound in merry measure. Some have been spiritual abstractions — answered prayers that heal the soul and open the heart. Others have solidified into physical manifestations – like Dome appearances and championship trophies. All have been glorious.

Remember that secret chord of heartbeats I mentioned before — a whole community of them pounding and tripping together in a giant cacophony of joy and thanksgiving? Well, I hear there is a  secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord…

But you don’t really care for music, do ya?

Well it goes like this, the fourth and fifth, the minor fall and the major lift, the baffled wife composes hallelujah…

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

 

 

A Woman More Precious than Pearls

I’ve told y’all before how my grandmother saved me.  She pulled me from the belly of the whale and brought me into light and love.  Well, today I’m here to tell you that Parker and Tate’s grandmother has saved me, too.  I’m starting to think that when a woman becomes a grandmother, some sort of transformative power – some mysterious, ministering pearl — gets planted into the center of her soul and settles, multiplies. And waits.

From the instant that the boys were pulled from my ginormous belly, my mother Rosalee, (hereafter, GiGi), has been a Godsend — an absolute blessing in grandmotherly garb. (Well, not really. She hardly owns anything grandmotherly. She is quite fond of leopard prints, fast cars, and shoe sales.) But she is a Godsend. That much is true.

gigiandbabes

The one thing that all twin parents told us from the get go – and that we, as twin parents, tell all new twin parents we know – is that you can never have enough help.  (Remember my favorite proverb, one is one and two is ten?) And my mom, without fail, has always been willing to lend a hand with our proverbial ten. She has driven one hour, one way, every single week for the last two-and-a-half years.  (Math’s not my strong suit, but that translates to a helluva lot of travel time, people.) In the beginning, during the insane sixteen months of scant sleep and even scanter sanity, she arrived at our doorstep twice a week, often bringing food and always staying overnight.  I recall a couple of critical nights when she and my sweet Bestie came and took the night shift so that Mike and I could get a little shut-eye. Now that the boys are a little more self-reliant (and finally sound sleepers), she’s weaned it down to once a week — though she always still stays the night. And the boys and I adore her for it. Especially during football season. She brings calm and conversation and highly capable assistance to our lonely nights without Daddy. Her sacrifices do not go unnoticed.

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So let me tell you a little about our GiGi. She has a blonde bob that she sweeps to the side, a speedy, sleek convertible for country roads, and — at last count — eleven themed Christmas trees. She’s quite the eclectic personality. She hails from the backwoods south of cotton and coal mines, loves Broadway musicals, and interior design.  She drinks sprite mimosas (who needs champagne?) and can move massive furniture single-handed up flights of staircases where most men would require assistance. It is from GiGi that I get my cooking skills, my temperament (easy-going, most days) and my fight (we can smolder, unchecked, for days until something sparks us and then we can burn down a whole forest). And if I’m tossing around tree metaphors here, then she’s bound to be a bonsai – well-coiffed and quite compact. That’s one thing I don’t get from my mama…

The boys ADORE their GiGi. She makes their toast with honey, she gives great snuggles and second helpings, and, in keeping with Parker’s obsession over motorized vehicles, she has gadgets and gizmos aplenty. She’s got go karts and golf carts galore. You want automobiles? She’s got twenty (no, not really, but she does have a few in her stable). She’s our pint-sized GiGi in leopard print and convertible ride.

Sadly, during football season, we don’t make it to her place often.  The only day we have with Daddy is Saturday, so we tend to stick close to home and him.  But that doesn’t stop GiGi from coming to us. This week she arrived for Trick or Treating – and we absolutely couldn’t have done it without her.  And that’s no lie – that’s not even an exaggeration. Daddy had football, and Mommy had a strict moral code.  You simply do not go door to door and collect candy if you don’t also hand out candy at your own front door. It’s a weird little ethical idiosyncrasy of mine. There are too many takers in this world, and a definite shortage of givers. So, as for me and mine, we will do our best to balance out the universe, one snack-size Snickers at a time.

So GiGi gave out candy, while the boys and I traipsed our street… eventually. But first we had to get the boys to wear their costumes — and we had a slight problem. Parker was supposed to be a firetruck, and Tate was supposed to be an Itsy Bitsy Spider (handpicked by them, mind you, from the Pottery Barn catalogue). But apparently it’s not just communism that only works on paper. Add costumes to that list.  Tate had a meltdown – a full-blown, chubby-cheeked, toddler Chernobyl. He wanted to wear the firetruck, too.

firetruck

Now I blame myself. I really should’ve known better. Truly. No matter what we do, Mike and I always, always, always buy two of the same thing, which doesn’t stop the boys from fighting, mind you, but this time, just this once, I thought it would be different.

But that was simply stupid of me because I also should’ve known that when it comes to any sort of “different” duds the boys don’t adjust well — Tate in particular.  He has a hint of his father’s OCD in him.

For instance, during Cartersville’s Homecoming week about a month ago, the boys’ day care mapped out a fun-filled week of spirit days. Monday brought us silly sock day – so seemingly fun and harmless, yes?

“That’s a negative, ghost rider. The pattern [was too] full.”

Because, apparently in my obsessively compulsive Tate Bug’s mind, funky, mismatched, divergently-patterned socks is just way too excessive for his sensibilities. There was absolutely no way he was wearing one olive green dinosaur sock and one bright orange monster sock. Not with a sweet plaid button up and khaki shorts, thank you very much. It took chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and a subtle sleight of feet to get them on unnoticed.  Then came Hat Day, not nearly as psychologically damaging as silly socks, but again, not well received.  And then came total anarchy with Pajama Day. It nearly did us all in – and not for the reason you’re thinking. This time, they both EMBRACED the concept. Like totally and completely. Because Minion PJs should be worn to school each and every day. Forever and Ever. Amen.

pjday

So our recent track record with strange and unusual attire has not been stellar. And to be perfectly honest, this time I don’t think it was that Tate necessarily wanted to wear the firetruck so much as he didn’t want to slip the spider’s large, dark, fuzzy cephalothorax over his head. I think he’s a wee bit claustrophobic. Convinced that fear was the problem, GiGi and I tried getting Tate to step into his costume… and it was still a no-go.

But then I got to thinking – the boys probably didn’t understand what Halloween really involves — the seemingly endless supply of sweets, as well as the sweet freedom of walking smack down the center of the street.  I mean, when does a toddler ever get that privilege? Therefore, GiGi and I, along with the ready and willing assistance of brother Parker, modeled some serious Trick or Treating skills, complete with ringing of doorbell and distribution of suckers. It took no time at all before Tate was fully ensconced in spider finery and ready for the open road — which in all honestly, probably held greater sway than the candy treats in the whole scenario…

So that makes TWO ways the boys and I couldn’t have done Halloween without GiGi. She distributed candy to the masses – and I mean MASSES of little ghouls and goblins– AND she helped us navigate the treacherous landscape of weird wardrobe angst.

gigicostume

My little costumed adventurers only trekked to eight neighbor’s houses before we set our sights toward home. The houses are far apart on our street, and the boys had plodded purposefully to each one with confidence, only to find themselves speechless and shy at the doorway. I had managed to coax a fist-muffled “Trick or Treat” out of both boys every time, but still, eight was plenty.  As we made our way through the hordes, Parker and Tate spied GiGi distributing treats amidst a crowd of kiddos in costume. They instantly picked up speed, their plastic pumpkins practically careening off felted kneecaps and showering the street with treats.

“I found you, GiGi! I found you, GiGi!” — as if she were a long lost treasure, and they alone understood her import. But that is not true.

I, too, understand her import.  I truly, truly do.For she is far more precious than pearls. And boy does she have them — pearls of wisdom and truth and love and hope and energy and time and joy and peace… they pour out of her. She has shared those pearls with us so very generously and so very faithfully for the past two-and-a-half years. GiGi’s worth simply cannot be measured. And my humble thanks can never be payment enough. But still, I offer them up in this month of Thanksgiving.

Thank you.

 

 

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