Friday, November 28, 2014

Quiet after the storm.....

We started Thanksgiving Day with a slip of a little grey puppy dragging herself out from under the covers, to watch the Macy's parade with us. I don't actually watch the entire parade, rather, I like the background noise of it, the staying-in-pajamas-lazy-on-the-sofa-til-it's-completely-over of it. I don't actually love all the singers lip-synching songs I've never heard. I do love, love seeing the Rockettes, synchronized skinny legs snapping here and there, and all the people bundled up, red noses, kids on their dads' shoulders, watching. I love seeing life celebrated through my television screen, but I wouldn't actually enjoy being there in the middle of it all. 

Next we moved in, a lazy fashion, toward stuffing the turkey and getting it in the oven. Most of the big work was done the day before - side dishes and pies and table setting. I don't want anything about this day to be hurried or full. 

Late afternoon we pour a glass of wine, and wander out to the patio by the pool. One last hour of quiet conversation before the festivities swing into high gear. 

As we come in the back door they are coming in the front. High voices and squeals from grandkids as they spy Lily; family and friends and a stranger thrown in for good measure. Hugs are given, dishes are offered, jackets taken, and the kitchen is full to the brim in one fell swoop. 

And I love it. All of it. 

We gather around the table, hold hands and Cub Sweetheart prays for us, puts words to the thoughts of Thanksgiving we all have in our hearts, and for one minute there is only the sound of his voice, soft and slow as he takes the time to say what is on his heart, this man of few words.

Then it's a rush for food, grabbing plates and filling them, talking over each other, laughter and squeals and on it goes in a wonderful, wonderful way. For two solid hours the table is more than full of people and conversation and family stories that have been shared before, and will be again, because there's richness in hearing them again and again.

I watch a few around our table, four of the ten adults slide into an observer's role. They listen, and say very little. They're engaged but quiet. Resting in the midst of it all.

When it's all said and done, the little ones have had all they can take, eaten nothing and shed half their clothes as little ones tend to do, because pants get in the way of eating and playing, don't you know?, then we all head back to the kitchen. We clean up in frenzy, and I'm thankful for all the helping hands. Within minutes there is no sign Thanksgiving ever happened, except behind the doors of two refrigerators. 

They're all out the same door they came through only hours before, full and happy. Some are headed to a local theater to catch a late movie, some to go home and climb in bed as quick as they can, and some are off for all-night shopping, the thought of which horrifies me. 

I had a conversation with Cub Sweetheart only a few days before about all the holiday hubbub. He told me about a talk he heard on public radio: Why the holidays are hard for introverts by Sophia Demling.  It's not an issue of shy or not, loud or quiet, it's what fills and drains the tank for each of us.

I've realized over the years that our family of five has only one true, true extrovert  - our middle daughter. A couple more have married in, and a few have been produced through three marriages. I fall near the middle of the scale. How introverted or extroverted I am generally depends on the situation. I remember meeting girlfriends for coffee and going away worn out. I loved being with them, but after I left there was nothing in me that needed to be with people for awhile. I don't think my more extroverted girlfriends ever understood this - a need to recharge after emptying out from being with people. I am generally NOT a quiet person, I love being with people, and gathering and festivities and celebrating life, but afterwards I need books and quiet and soaks in the tub and a lot of alone time.  A few of my friends leave planning the next get-together! Cub Sweetheart has a much smaller need than me to be with people to begin with, and when he does he's completely worn out afterwards. He's happy to do small talk with strangers, but if he has to hold up the bulk of conversation with people - even those he knows well - he's ready for some serious down time afterwards. I wish I'd understood this twenty years ago. He does too.

Last night at dinner we talked about Black Friday Shopping. The idea of going without sleep, standing on sidewalks with hoards of strangers, waiting for doors to open so we can run in and grab DVD plays for 50% off, coming home with a car full of presents that need to be wrapped and stored away before I've even thought about putting up a tree - it all sounds completely overwhelming.

Last year the only gift I asked for was homemade pot holders, which makes me sound 100 years old, but I actually use them almost every single day. They were sewn by our definitely introverted daughter, in the quiet of her sewing room, where she was possibly hiding out after a day too full of people and noise and such. There was nothing on my wish list last year that someone needed to stay up all night and stand in line for. At least I hope not. There isn't this year either.

I recently had someone mention a book to me, 'Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking', by Susan Cain. I already owned it. This next year I'm actually going to read it. I'm thinking I'll start it on January 1, my all-time, hands-down favorite day of the year. When the holidays are over, the cooking is all done and leftovers abound in the fridge, there's nothing that needs decorating, and everyone has headed back home, and the only sound in our house is the background noise of a parade. I do love, love seeing the floats decorated with flowers, all the kids on their dads' shoulders, watching. I love seeing life celebrated, but I wouldn't actually enjoy being there in the middle of it all. I'd much rather be home, on my sofa in pajamas with our slip of a little grey puppy beside me. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A treasure unearthed and a corny tradition.....

Our family changed plans a few days ago and decided to have Thanksgiving at our house. Hurrah! Menus have been made, shopping is done, and the pies are in the fridge, just waiting for their moment.

We'll start the day at home, alone the two of us, watching Macy's parade (I've never, ever missed a single year of it as long as I can remember), we'll eat canned cinnamon rolls, and Cub Sweetheart will talk to me about every single balloon and float, bless his heart. Because it's my love language, watching the parade with me. And pretending to care. 

Then we'll be lazy much of the rest of the day, me working on Christmas gifts while he watches whatever football is on. Then around 5 pm they'll all come pouring in the front door, bringing pies and corn casserole and their sweet faces to gather around our table for a few hours of loud, crazy fun. We've got a turkey and a ham, and all the sides and such, lots of pies for afterwards, but all I really care about is the mashed potatoes. It would be Thanksgiving for me with just that one dish. I don't care too much about the food, but....

but I had to have our little blue book, the one that everyone hated when they were growing up, but I still pulled it out every single year. Everyone, everyone had to write in it what they were thankful for. All these years later we have a lot of fun reading the entries, especially the one Cub Sweetheart made the very first year, that was completely inappropriate. It had gotten misplaced in the move last year, and I was despairing of ever finding it again. 

But I did. This afternoon. It was tucked behind another sweet Susan Branch book, displayed in the dining room. 

And inside the very front page - this:

This year this sweet mama will be helping cook their own Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a 32 pound turkey. I do believe she's recruited her big sister to help with that chore, but it sure was fun sending her a snapshot of this today. To remind her of a day gone by when she didn't have to do a thing, except be a kid, and come to the table when she was called. And eat. Her text to me made it quite clear that seems a lifetime ago. Oh, how fast we got from there to here. It flew by.

So tomorrow, no matter how much they groan, make all those gathered around your table at least say, but better yet, write down what they're thankful for. Many of the things on their list won't be things, and won't be around forever.

Okay, back to cooking!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What I'm Thankful for.....

It seems absolutely fitting, this week, to take a minute to think about what I'm thankful for. Cheesy, but still fitting. Here's the list I've come up with over the past several days, while walking the dog :

In no particular order, because that would take way too much brain power and editing thereafter, and I've got way too much cooking to do, gifts to work on, decorating, phone calls to make - you know - all the stuff everyone else is busy with :-)

#1 I'm thankful for having little people in our lives, who mispronounce words, and announce loud and clear when they've pooped, and take off their shirts to play with playdoh, and play with our kids' old toys, and get our kitchen table sticky every single time they eat there. They make our lives much richer, remind us how to really live, and give us a chance to do a better job of grandparenting than we did with parenting. We are blessed eight times over.

#2 I'm thankful for miracles that still occur today, for little girls who lived through heart surgery, and miracle babies who weren't supposed to be but God always knew, and for teenage boys who defy the odds (God doesn't gamble) and come out of being hit by a car with relatively minor results. (BTW I never posted about our grandson being hit by a car, did I?! He was, he's okay now, it was scarier than all get out, but he's okay, thank you God!)

#3 I'm thankful for grown kids who have guts, more than we did. They have the courage to leave perfectly good, safe careers and start new ones, in spite of us wringing our hands over it.

#4 I'm thankful for age spots on my hands, crinkles around my eyes, stretch marks on my stomach and grey hairs all over my head, because they are a testimony to a long life that included sunshine and smiling and having babies and feeling free enough to throw out the hair dye. I'm not overly thankful for the cellulite on my upper thighs.

#5 I'm thankful for Cub Sweetheart, who still whistles at me when he catches me half-dressed. A sense of humor and shameless flattery will go a long ways keeping a marriage alive.

#6 I'm thankful for often feeling like I have too much on my plate, too much to keep up with, because it means we're still in the game, living a life full of people and plans and such. Twenty years from now it'll likely look very different and I'll wish I could go back to this time.

#7 I'm thankful for family who loves each other imperfectly, but loves anyway.

#8 I'm thankful for a family doctor who told me to eat chicken nuggets at Chick-fil-A rather than McDonalds most of the time, and more often than that to eat at home, but to once in awhile just eat what I want because life is a gift that needs to be fully embraced. He also cautioned me to not run marathons or eat tree bark, God bless him.

#9 I'm thankful Jesus turned water into wine, shouting out that life is to be celebrated. Go to the party, eat the cake, sip a glass of merlot, dance, live!

#10 I'm thankful there are people who give up perfectly good dogs, and we found Miss Lily and brought her home. In spite of it not making sense. In spite of her sometimes tee-teeing on our bedroom carpet because it's too cold to go out her doggie door in the middle of the night. I'm still thankful for her because she makes me laugh every single day and our grandchildren think we hung the moon just because we have her here to play with. (It would be okay with me if she'd stop the tee-tee thing... and likely this lady thinks so too.)

#11 I'm thankful Miss Lily has never bitten said grandchildren even though she's likely wanted to. And they maybe deserved it.

#12 I'm thankful for leaves that turn red and yellow and lay on our lawn awhile, then the wind sweeps them down the street to another yard where they hopefully don't drive that man as crazy as they do Cub Sweetheart, who hates, hates, hates them.

#13 I'm thankful my mother let me use her sewing machine at the ripe age of seven, to sew Barbie skirts. Sitting at my sewing machine is something I dearly love, and 52 years later I'm still sewing Barbie skirts and American Girl doll clothes and table runners and little girl headbands and such.

#14 I'm thankful my Daddy, who will be 90 next July, is happy as a clam, and relatively fit as a fiddle, living in a building with a bunch of sweet old ladies. Thankful they all love him, give him somebody to bake for, play cards and put puzzles together with him. Very thankful for that.

#15 I'm thankful I still have four of my siblings. And one of them is a girl. No girl deserves four brothers without at least one sister thrown in the mix.

#16 I'm thankful my left eye sees so great, since my right one doesn't see worth a darn. That old adage, 'don't take things for granted' is much more relevant to me since this past March with my eye episode. 

#17 I'm thankful for how many people who had thoughts in their head, decided to put it down on paper, and published a book, in spite of all the naysayers who told them they shouldn't. Because books are something I love in such a big, big, big way. What would I do without books? I can't imagine.

#18 I'm thankful for shrimp and vanilla ice cream and McDonald's french fries, for cell phones and the internet, for the GPS in our car, for fabric stores, for the sound of the school bus at our curb most mornings, for airplanes and affordable flights to see those we love, or bring them here to us.

#19 I'm not thankful for dementia, for poverty, hopelessness and those who are cold and hungry at night while I'm warm and full in my own home; for alcoholism and cigarettes and how they rob value and years from lives; I'm not thankful for mean-spiritedness, for those who can somehow harm an innocent child, for those who would bully or abuse women, nor that we live in a world where we somehow think it's the woman's right to choose to end a life growing inside her.

#21 I'm not thankful for pride, jealousy, modern-day Phariseeism, for judging others, for cynicism or being self-centered, for greediness and wishing others to fail or at least finish poorly, and especially when it's all alive and well within me.

#22 I'd like to be able to say I'm thankful for world peace, and everyone in our family being completely healthy, and all diseases being cured. None of that is true, but God is bigger than that. He sees all pieces of a puzzle I have only a teensy, tiny glimpse of. He's never been surprised a single day in all eternity, and I can rest in that.

We're having Thanksgiving at our house this year (yeah!), eleven of us, ranging from 3 to 63 and I'm printing out 'thankful for mats to use at each place setting. You can download them HERE if you'd like.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone,

Saturday, November 22, 2014

52 in 52, not including tattoos

This is how books feel to me. Always have, since those days when the bookmobile pulled up at the end of Click Drive and I climbed up those steps. Since my mother took me to the Terrell Park Library and was told I could 'take three'. Three????? Yes, three, and as soon as I read them I could have three more.

I read them in three days. And my mother would take me back to get three more.

Granted, many of them were Nancy Drew, but there were also autobiographies and biographies; I remember getting on a jaunt of Perry Mason mysteries for awhile. I remember walking down the aisles with my head sideways til it had a crick in it, looking at the titles sideways. I remember the musty smell, and still have a love of it.

In libraries, not my own house, of course.

As a sidenote, why someone couldn't see that a woman dragging six children with less than eight years between them wasn't blessed to 'take three' is beyond  me. So we went back and went back and went back. And I've loved books as long as I can remember. Clearly someone worked on that rule because when I leave the library with my grandkids, we have our arms piled full and the challenge is to make sure we don't lose them in the house. Thank you, whoever you are, that fixed that rule.

My nightstand is this teensy, proper looking thing that fits well next to the bed, but I've always wanted an old oak pedestal table sitting there, with room for my clock, water, four books I'm currently reading, and the four waiting in the wings, a box of cheese-its to eat in bed, and a candle, of course. Maybe someone is currently working on that rule too, and oak pedestal tables will become more the  norm, at least for those of us who love books. You go into the furniture store and they have the normal, proper looking ones, and the ones that really work for people like  me.

So I took a challenge, at the beginning of 2014, to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I also set out to read the entire Bible in that same time. I just finished Revelation, only because I don't really like Revelation so I got it over with, and now I can go back to 1 and 2 Samuel, Ruth, Esther, etc. Obviously I prefer history over sci-fi. And how am I doing with the 52 in 52?

Well, I've read more than I would if I hadn't attempted 52, and the year still has 5 or so weeks in it. I could cram it full of Newberry award winners. That's a bucket list item for me, to read them all, and I'm plugging along at that. There's some wonderful writing out there in Newberry land. Right now I'm on #23 and #24 and #25, reading them all at the same time, with #26 - 28 sitting next to them, and #29-31 laying at the edge of the bathtub, waiting, waiting.

Right now I'm reading And the Mountains Echoed, by Hosseini (his third and the other two were wonderful). I was given a wonderful tip, by a friend years ago, to check out the book and the audio at the same time, so I read in the tub and bed and sofa, and listen while I'm upstairs sewing away on Christmas gifts. I read a blog recently where the author gave a month to month report of what she'd read with short and sweet reviews. I like that idea and will try to do that in 2015. As a quick review, I read Looking for Me, by Beth Hoffman, back in the spring, and that, coupled with our daughter moving 2000 miles away, nudged me to get a dog. We're empty-nesters and travel a lot and a dog was completely impractical, but I did it anyway. So if you don't want to get a dog, don't read that book. Otherwise, I highly recommend it - I loved it! (And still am quite happy we got the dog.) (In spite of her barking in hotels til we're nicely asked to leave, and tee-tee on our carpet when she's upset with us, and having to share the cheese-its when I'd prefer to eat them all myself.)

Which leads me to something else I saw. This woman took a challenge to do 52 new things in 52 weeks. She and I are very different, but I love, love the idea of that. I've already eaten snails, and if I get a tattoo most of my family will disown me, but what a great year would that be? To sit in a coffee shop and just think about what I'm afraid of, what I don't want to die wishing I'd done?

If I don't get all 52 books read this year, I will still have read 'Looking for Me' by Beth Hoffman, and Lily the little Shih Tzu is quite happy I did; I will still have read Kitchen Counter Cooking School and tried cooking with abandon; I will have read 'Extreme Grandparenting' and learned to enjoy our grandkids more and let their parents figure out how to make them share; I will still have read 'Church Planters Wife' and understood better what our daughter's life is like right now. I will have met Jan Karon and read 'Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good and been envious of her hair.

If I don't get 52 new things done in 2015 I will have gotten some done. And that is quite likely the point. I'll post in January what my first 5 are, and if you have any suggestions for me (outside getting a tattoo or shaving my head) feel free to let me know! Or join me and share your list here by link.


PS If you need a list of what to read, this blog by Sarah Clarkson is wonderful, and chock full of wonderful books. So your nightstand can be in danger of toppling over, like mine.

PSS As a sidenote, I am glad Jesus is coming back, he wins, and all that, but Revelation is not my favorite book. Which likely explains why I also don't love poetry. At all. Unless it's by the guy who wrote Where the Sidewalk Ends. His poetry I quite enjoy. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Make a Life that Matters

It’s hard to believe it, but we’ve just passed the one-year mark here at our ‘new’ home in the DFW metroplex. We found a church home, and this fall it was time to get back to serving again. Both of us wanted to get involved in ministries outside church walls. Don chose working in the repair shop of a ministry-based thrift store, and so far so good. He goes in once a week, fixes tables and bookcases and blenders and such, after which they are sold in the store, and the proceeds go to all sorts of good causes. It’s a great fit for him, and just last week he told me to go check out a table they had for sale. $40 later it’s sitting in the corner of our living room, and I love it all the more for where it came from.

I chose mentoring young women who have just come out of a program that helps prepare them for life. Some have been in prison, some were homeless, some have been trapped in poverty, some were mothers before they grew up, but all are trying to improve their lives. I went to a ceremony a few weeks back, where the women graduated from the program, and I met the young mom I’ll be getting together with for the next six to nine months.

At our first sweet meeting, she asked me, ‘so what is a mentor? Are you here to be my friend?’ I LOVE that a twenty-something was so gracious as to ask an almost-sixty year old, grey haired lady if we were supposed to be friends.

I told her I hoped we would be friends, but mostly I was there as someone who’s already walked a little further along the paths of life. As we get to know each other better I can help guide her along the way by sharing what I’ve learned when I failed miserably or finished well.

Last week we met for the first time, and I listened to her story. Where she’s been, where she is now, what hard things she’s dealing with, and what she dreams her future looks like, six months from now, a year from now, five years from now.

If you want to have fun, ask someone to dream out loud! I did, and her hopes and dreams and fears were flying through the air so fast I was having trouble keeping up with them all. When I shared that with her she told me, “me too! I feel like I have so much going on in my head I can’t keep track of it all.”

So here was, at least as I see it, the biggest, most important, rare gem of immense wisdom I shared with her that day.

Buy a five-tab, spiral notebook. Go wild and pick one with a cute cover, but buy one today.

I told her what to write on each tab. The first four labels are areas of life she wants to work on, and the last one will have my name. Behind each tab, on the first sheet of paper, she’ll scribble some general goals for each area, and then brainstorm whatever she’s thinking about in that area. Behind the ‘Bev’ tab she’ll jot down anything she wants to remember to tell me, ask me, talk with me about. When we meet for lunch in a few weeks she’ll bring the notebook and we’ll look at the pages together. From there we’ll work to set some specific goals for her to work toward, and come up with concrete ways to get from here to there.

It wasn’t rocket-science, just what struck me, off the top of my head. For the cost of a few bucks, she’ll hopefully feel more in control of her life; she’ll be able to see dreams and goals written down, and fears and problems, situations avoided to date, now faced straight on.

Not only do I look forward to seeing what she comes up in the next month, I’m hoping someday she’ll take this book down from the shelf and be able to look back to a time when she was working so hard to get her life together, and a five-tab, spiral notebook was a visible sign of her faith in the future. It’s scary to dream if you’ve never done it before. I know. I remember.

If you’re reading this, and checking out because you think you don’t have anything to share with anyone, it's not so! Young women today are desperately asking for mentors who are willing to invest in them. Even if you feel like much of your life has been spent making mistakes, that’s a valuable thing to share with someone who feels like they are the only one out there floundering. Maybe there’s a young woman, in your church or neighborhood, who could use a friend who was willing to spend time with them. Take a cooking class with them, or open a cookbook together (that might be fun!) do a Bible study together, start walking a few mornings a week just to talk, and/or pray. Bounce the baby for her, while you talk about how hard you struggled with learning to parent. Maybe you’re good at household budgeting, and could teach her how to set one up, and stick to it. 

If you’re over 40 and wondering what you could be doing with your life at this point, scripture spells it out for us:
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.   Titus 2:3-5 
 And if you’re thinking 40 isn’t ‘older woman’ it isn’t compared to me, but it is to a twenty-something who’s been married less than five years, and could use a helping hand.

I remember a story of a little boy with a sack lunch of some fish and pieces of bread, and when Jesus was done with it, it had fed the multitudes. Surely God can still today use us, whether it’s to teach a young mom to hang wallpaper (thank you Tris), study the Bible (thank you Deone) clean a house (thank you Claire) set a pretty table (thank you Karen) hold a friend’s trust (thank you Bettie) or be a real friend (thank you Cathy and Robin), or maybe you just suggest they buy a five tab, spiral notebook and start jotting down what’s on their heart. 

If you want to hear more about mentoring, or need some yourself, I so love the heart of this woman. She does a post most Mondays on the subject of mentoring, and I promise you'll be blessed to read what's on her heart. I still learn so much from her myself, and am thankful for all she's shared with my own two daughters. 


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Weekend Words

'Remember Lot's wife." (1)

Scripture doesn't tell me what her name is, just that she was disobedient. That's the sum total of what she's remembered for. She looked back at her town, burning behind her.

Did she slow down, just for a second, twisting her head the teensiest bit while she was running for her life, thinking a little look wouldn't hurt. Was she afraid her past was hot on her heels, catching up with her?

Much like my father, when God said it, he meant it. And you didn't ask why. Instantly she turned into a pillar of salt.

In my mind I picture her - long, brown hair flying behind her, skirts gathered up into her hand so she wouldn't be slowed down, sandals slapping against the ground, terrified at what was behind her, and ahead. How did she feel? How would I have felt if an angel had grabbed my  hand and pulled me along, telling me not to turn around.

I like to think I'd charge ahead, never look back, but who knows for sure? My track record so far indicates I could be a little salty too.

What made her turn around, look back? It wasn't like Sodom was a great place to live, so why? I'd think she was glad to be going, like when we finally sold our house at the lake, or the one in Virginia whose pipes froze every winter, but maybe she was sad at what she'd left behind and scared out of her wits that she was running into the unknown. I get that. Good riddance to where I've been but I'm not at all sure of what's ahead of me.

I have to wonder, was the rest of her family even aware she'd been changed? Did they ever know Mom had turned into salt? It seems to me they would all have been running straight ahead, and maybe some were behind her to see her change, but what about those who'd outrun her, who were ahead? They'd all been told, "escape for your life! Do not look behind you...." I have to assume they never saw her again, even though she was only feet behind them.

Maybe God let her run at the front of the pack, lead the way, as a sign to those coming behind? Sort of like my older sister and brothers. I mostly learned what not to do by watching them, or at least I learned how to not get caught. (I'm thinking of hiding packs of cigarettes in my bedroom, or coming up with stories of why I was late for my curfew....) Lot's wife didn't have the luxury of anyone else's example - one teensy twist of her neck and she was done.

There's much in life I've left behind, for good and bad. People, places, things, hopes, dreams, failures, memories. Some were easy, good riddance: that group I still call 'the mean quilters', bad boyfriends, a few 'friends', orange tube tops, and that awful, green car that had a stick shift I never mastered. There was also my first Barbie with the beautiful black hair and tiny white pearl earrings, the houses I brought my babies home to, women who became my forever friend, the last swing set and sand box, and the porch I sat on, chomping on chips and salsa out of anger and frustration at a husband who was doing the best he could, but working crazy hours that made him never home.

Surely there is value in considering the past, learning from the mistakes and treasuring the moments, and God has indeed equipped me to turn to the side a little bit, for a little peek, maybe. But there's a reason I don't have eyes in the back of my head, just the front for looking out at now and the future that lies ahead of me.

I don't want it said of me, summing up my life, 'but Bev looked back.'

(1) Genesis 19:17 & 26; Luke 17:32

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fleeting Days of Easy Conversation

The phone never rings more than two times before she grabs it, a little out of breath, as if there's a rush, but there's not. Or she just came in the door with arms full of groceries, but she didn't. And she always answers, 'Beverly?' with that question mark in her voice.

I say, 'Hi Mom, how are you?'. Without fail she says, 'your mom is doing great, I'm doing just great.' The conversation dips and turns, a sort of tango to take us to how she's really doing. What she's busy with, who she's seen lately, where she's gone. That takes all of minutes these days.

As soon as she can, she turns the conversation back to me and my family. 'Well now, how are all those kids down in Texas doing?' How are those up north?" I answer with names and details, a gentle refresher for her, assuring her they're all fine. Doing well. We're all doing well.

We used to stay in touch by writing real letters, on lined paper, with blue ink. Photographs and newspaper clippings were shoved into envelopes. No recipes. My mother has never been the recipe-exchange type. A few years ago, after a drawer-cleaning stint, she gave me back all those letters I'd written her, all the photos and news clippings still intact. Someday, eventually, I'll take them with me on that trip to the beach we said we'd go on, but never did; I'll reread them while I lie in the sun, my face shaded by a big, floppy hat, and wish she was with me. I already know, years ahead of time, how it will feel to be there without her, remembering. Right now they sit on the closet shelf, sheets and sheets of a journal I didn't know I was keeping.

Back in those days when we talked on the phone but lived miles apart, 'long distance' was not something to be taken lightly so we crammed as much in as we could. We talked about everything. Nothing was taboo, and we only hung up because the bill was running up, ten cents a minute. We'd stop the flow of easy conversation. Stop the deep, long talks about politics and discrimination and women's lib, and books and marriage and divorce and such, but never a word about recipes. Oddly enough, those cooking conversations are, and always have been, with my father. My mother and I would hit on a subject and talk it to the ground. That was then.

This is now. A now that snuck up on me, one day at a time until it turned into years and we're in a place where there's not so much to talk about.  Is it because her world is getting smaller, the walls closing in around her? Surely mine will someday too soon do the same. The last time we talked, after I hung up, I thought about how I need to do better. I need to go back with her to a place and time when life was full.  Remember with her all her favorite stories. Let her tell me again, for her, but also for me so I tuck them away safe. Now that phone minutes are virtually unlimited our conversations aren't. I need to work on that. Put out the effort to find things we can again talk and talk and talk about.

Earlier this week I sat in the chair of my living room, chattering away with my two grown daughters. Words flowed, twisting and turning and looping around again. We remembered together, laughing and yelling over each other, squealing and gasping for breath.  We could have talked all night if one mama wasn't sleep deprived from having a baby, and the other one knew better than to stay up too late because a houseful of little people would be waiting for her when the sun was barely up. Good sense won out, but everything in us wanted to stay there together.

That evening with my girls, for a moment their voices were muffled in my mind. Words went pale and danced behind the filter of my heart. Like when bright sun comes through the glass window and you can see particles of dust floating in the air all around you, I was mesmerized by the sheer sound of their voices filling the room. My room. Just being here together in the fullness of it all. Someday my girls will maybe remember back to this night, and so many others, when we couldn't talk fast enough, about enough, long enough. When we were all sad that it was too late to stay longer and being responsible ended our evening too soon. They'll remember when my world was big and wide and full of new people and interesting events, and books, and news and such. When we didn't talk about doctor visits and prescriptions and aches and pains and such.

Why is it days slip by so easily, going unnoticed, turning into years? What can I do to make it hold still? For right now I can really, really, really listen to how it sounds when my mother calls me "Darlin'" and somewhere in our talking says "It's just so good to hear from you." I'm trying to grasp, at the core of my being, that someday I'll look back and remember these days - with my own mother, and as a mother of my two grown daughters, and wish I could have just one of them back. Wish I could ask my mother about her new friend down the way, and hear her reply. Listen to my girls talk about being sleep-deprived, and feedings, and toddlers, and teenagers, and everything else in-between. I'll look back to these fleeting days of easy conversation that floated in the air all around me.