Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What's Up Wednesday: February Edition

It rained yesterday afternoon so the kids stayed inside and watched a movie.  This right here is my dream.  The perfect day would be moving from the bed to the couch and watching TV all. day.  But anyway.

Well, it's nothing to write home about, that's for sure!  I've been cooking.  But my heart really hasn't been into it very much.  So I've just been preparing meals that everyone likes, even if it's not my favorite.  Last night we had my absolute least favorite meal ever.  Cubed steak.   That's what it always was when I was a kid.  But Seth calls it chicken fried steak.  So whatever.  I made myself a salad instead.  Monday night I tried a new recipe.  Chicken tamale casserole.  It was fine.  It was easy.  I just wasn't too much into it.  What I really want is a pizza.  I want to pick up the phone and call and order a pizza for delivery.  But that's not an option.  I told Seth the other day that I need to find a good pizza dough recipe.  I've not had any success there either.  I just haven't been too inspired lately.

My grandparents.  For the first time in my whole entire life, I do not have any grandparents.  I always thought it was so special growing up with all of my grandparents (and even some great-grandparents) involved in my life.  That changed rather quickly when Granddaddy and Pa died within just more than a year of each other.  I was in college.

My Granddaddy was the kindest, gentlest, most humble man I know.  He was also one of the godliest men I've ever known.  He traveled all over Europe and Africa during the war and has some amazing pictures of his adventures.  When he came back home, he worked hard on the farm all the rest of the days of his life.  He raised his family.  He loved his neighbors, and he loved hard and long.  There are things my Granddaddy did for people that I didn't even know about until recently.  He was so respected in our community, and everyone knew Mr. Marvin.  He was a quiet man, too.  I never ever remember him raising his voice or being loud at all.  As a matter of fact, it was almost like you had to listen real close to even hear him.  But that's what you did.  Because when he spoke, it was always important, and you knew it.  I will never forget the last conversation he had with me.  It was one of the last days he was able to get up and walk. We sat at the kitchen table eating a piece of pound cake.  He talked to me about the importance of maintaining my witness, as I was about to move away to college.  He also talked to me about the importance of choosing a godly man to marry.

He never missed a single thing I did.  He came to all my dance recitals, piano recitals and concerts, school functions.  He'd sit on the front row, too.  The only thing I remember him missing was my high school graduation.  By then, the cancer made it too painful for him to sit on those hard metal bleachers at the football field.  One of my favorite pictures of us was taken at a two piano four hands concert Mrs. Sallie and I performed my junior year in high school.  May 8, 1995 to be exact.  He has a camera in his hand.  That makes me smile, too.  It reminds me of the time I sang on television at the Macy's Lighting of the Great Tree on Thanksgiving.  He took a picture of the television screen every time the camera panned to where I was.

This man was a treasure.  He was called home on October 28, 1996.  It seems unfathomable to me that last year was 20 years without him here on this earth.

Pa was so much fun!  He's the grandpa who would jump into the pool with all of his clothes still on.  He loved homemade peach ice cream and fireworks.  He'd always bring me a little box of those conversation hearts on Valentine's Day.  I'll never, ever forget what he told me at Granddaddy's funeral.  He said, "I know I'm the only grandfather you have left now.  And I just want you to know I'm going to be the best one."  He was called home not too long after that on January 5, 1998.  And, yet again, I got called home from college to bury another grandfather.

But into my adult life, I still had both of my grandmas.  I told you all about Grandmother a few weeks ago.
Never ever in a million years did I imagine that in a little over two months, I'd bury MeMama.  Never.  There's much more to be said about her.  Later.
And, just like that, they're all gone from this earth.  So, yeah, all the memories of these precious grandparents of mine are still fresh on my heart these days.  I'd give anything for just one more conversation with each of them . . .

I'm really enjoying the Bible study I'm hosting at my house on Monday nights.  We're studying 2 Corinthians, and it's been a good place for me this month.  I also kind of like that they don't seem to want to leave when we're done!

It's really nothing spectacular over here.  Just the same ole thing.  

Last week was rather busy.  The girls had dance pictures spread across two days.  Ellie was cracking me up.  She's on top of it this time around.  She clearly understands that if she wants to become a gymnastics girl, she has to finish out this dance year well.  The teachers didn't have to tell her twice what to do.  She was front and center with her hands on her hips for her class picture and totally owned it.  When it came time for her sister picture with Hannah Kate, Miss Jade was posing Hannah Kate first.  When she went to pose Ellie, Ellie was already standing there in some sort of dance position with her arms going every which way.  It was all Miss Jade could do not to laugh.  I finally had to tell Ellie to let Miss Jade show her how to stand and pose.

We had a field trip last week.  We visited one of the old plantations and rotated through different stations explaining the way of life in the early 1800s.  We'd actually been to the grounds of Oakley before for another field trip, but we didn't go up to and into the house.  We did this time.

So, keeping it real, baseball season.  It's almost that time again.  That means that all three kids are simultaneously involved in their extra-curricular activity.  That also means that the one free night a week I had is no longer free.  I know I should look forward to it because it's the only extra-curricular activity Mason participates in, it lasts only three months and Mason loves it.  I wish I looked forward to it.  I wish I enjoyed it.  But, if I'm being honest, I'm just not there.

What I need to be working on is Vacation Bible School.  But I haven't started yet.  That's another biggie headed my way.

We're taking a break from school next week.  The whole week.  The girls don't have dance either.  And I'm looking forward to it.  I most definitely need a break.  I asked the kids earlier this week what they'd like to do.  Obviously, I wasn't specific enough.  I got answers like the arcade, Area 51, find Mars with the telescope and bike riding.  That's not exactly what I had in mind.  I suppose I should've clarified and asked them where they'd like to go on a trip.  But it's a bit late for that now.  So while I'm excited about a "break," the arcade and Area 51 do absolutely nothing for me.

I didn't read as much as I would've liked this month.  I did end up reading The Bone Tree by Greg Iles.  I couldn't help myself.  I read the first book of the trilogy last month, and it was all I thought about.  Besides, the third book will be released next month so I need to be ready.  It's a 700-plus page book so I guess I really should cut myself some slack.  I'm currently reading The Edge of Lost.  Mason and I read Treasure Island, and now we're reading The Last Battle (the final book in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia).

I have pretty much the entire season of Fixer Upper on my DVR, but I haven't had time to watch it.  So if I was watching something, that's what it would be.  

I have no idea.  What I'd like to be doing and what will likely happen in actuality are two different things.

I've had March 2017 starred and highlighted and circled on my calendar for, oh, ten or so years now.  March 29 to be exact.  That was to be MeMama's 100th birthday.  We had already made plans to travel and spend it with her.  But MeMama is instead spending her 100th birthday in heaven.  She met Jesus on February 7.  So.  That changed things.  I just can't even say that I'm looking forward to March at all.  That sounds so strange.  March has always been one of my favorite months.  It's my birthday!  But I'm not even excited about that this year.  And that has never happened before.  But there is one thing I can say I'm looking forward to.

Beauty and the Beast.  You probably already know that's my favorite Disney movie of all time.  I even made sure we dined at the beast's castle when we went to Disney World last fall.  I told Seth that I want to go see the movie for my birthday.  It comes out my birthday weekend.  But you know what?  That's also the opening tournament for baseball. See above for how I feel about that.

For now . . . nothing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gymnastics Girl

So look.  If you don't want to see or hear about four year olds jumping off of furniture and such, you should totally come back later.

A couple of months ago, Ellie told me she wanted to be a "gymnastics girl."  I didn't think much of it.  I nodded my head.  I might've mumbled, "Mmm hmm."  And then I went on my way.  After all, what in the world does a four year old really know about what she wants to do?  And why would I even consider allowing my four year old (who broke her arm at the tender age of 20 months old and required surgery) to do a sport that involves flipping and all kinds of acrobatics anyway?  Because I can easily use the words "gymnastics" and "broken bones" in the same sentence!

But it looks like we've been to one too many LSU gym meets, watched one too many on television when they aren't competing at home.  And this girl is captivated.  She pays closer attention and is way more into it than the older two are.  She ASKS to watch it.

And then this started happening.
She's created her own "bar" and "vault" using her oversized chair.  She lays out her pillows and blankets to create her own floor mat of sorts.  This first happened upstairs so I didn't know what was really going on until she came downstairs with all her stuff and said she had something to show me. 
She's created several "routines," complete with special landings and arms and hand motions - just like she sees the LSU gymnasts do.  Her signature move is to jump off of something and do a split of sorts in the air before landing.  I actually caught her jumping off of pawpaw's table today (and all of her grandparents are now about to pick up the phone), but I did quickly explain to her that she is not allowed to do that.
She's also working on her split.
This is part of her balance beam routine.
Speaking of balance beam . . . she begged her daddy for several days to build her some "bars" in the backyard.  What she's really referring to is uneven bars.  No.  No ma'am.  So I suggested we build a balance beam instead.  My idea was to lay a 2x6 or maybe even a 2x4 on the ground.  Bam.  Balance beam.  Done.  But her daddy had other ideas.
He seriously cut down a tree in our yard, shaved the top off of it to level it a bit and then nailed it in between two trees.  This thing is probably three feet or so off the ground.  Nice.
But she's eating it up!
And here's her signature move off the balance beam.
She talks about gymnastics all. the. time.  She's constantly asking to watch it on television.  And she's been begging to take gymnastics lessons.  I was asking the kids what they'd like to do on our school break next week, and Mason said he wants to go to the trampoline park.  That wasn't exactly what I was looking for, and I finally told him that I was hoping to do something we would ALL enjoy (because Area 51 is not my idea of fun).  Ellie was quick to tell me that she "needs to go to Area 51 so I can practice my gymnastics."  Really?  

So a couple of weeks ago I had a serious little conversation with her.  I explained to her that if she really wants to take gymnastics, we'll do that.  But it means she can't take dance anymore.  I don't know what I was expecting her reaction to be.  She loves dance.  She really does.  Except for the fact that she nearly refused to dance on stage at the recital last year, which totally shocked everybody!  I think I was expecting her to back down from the whole gymnastics thing.  But she didn't.  She jumped at the chance and told me she was ready to quit dance and take gymnastics.  She didn't hesitate a single second.  She would've hung her ballet and tap shoes up right then and not even looked back.  But then I explained that she absolutely has to finish what she started in dance this year, and she absolutely has to dance on that stage during the recital this year.  She agreed and asked when we could go shopping for her gymnastic clothes.  We had dance pictures last week.  Last year those didn't go so well with her.  But this year?  She was the perfect little angel and more than willing to participate in those dance pictures because that put her one step closer to gymnastics!  And something tells me the recital is going to go really well this year, too!

So I keep asking myself if she's really capable of making this decision.  I mean, have I mentioned that she really does love dance?  She's four.  Four years old.  Does she really understand and know what she's talking about?  She just can't do both.  But as much as she loves dance, and as much as I'd love to see her dance a bit longer, I think her heart is into gymnastics.  She's constantly flipping off the end table, flipping up onto the couch upside down into a handstand, practicing her cartwheels.  She begs to go outside to jump on the trampoline and play on her balance beam.  I caught her hanging and swinging off the top of the play set a few days ago.  Again, grandparents, there's no need to pick up the phone.

When I was six years old, my mama put me in ballet and tap lessons.  That really wasn't what I wanted to do.  I wanted to take piano lessons.  I mentioned that a time or two.  It took awhile, but I remember her having the same conversation with me.  I could take both dance and piano lessons.  She let me choose.  For me, it wasn't a choice at all.  Dance just wasn't my thing.  But I knew the piano was.  So I finally started taking lessons when I was eight years old, and I took lessons for ten years.  From the time I started walking, I couldn't walk by a piano without "playing" it.  MeMama's piano was in the den at her house.  I never walked by it without "playing" it.  As a matter of fact, this was brought up just a couple of weeks ago when I was home.  I remember that so vividly as a child, even a very small child.  And that's what I see in Ellie.

So.  It looks like her dream of becoming a "gymnastics girl" is about to come true.  Who knows . . . maybe we'll be watching her on the floor of the PMAC one day!

But y'all.  There's a little part of me that can't get this image out of my mind.  I just hope we don't one day go back here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Grandmother

I've been working on this post for two months now, and I still don't know how to begin.  The pastor who officiated Grandmother's memorial service asked us grandchildren to send him a special memory of her or story about her that he would share with everyone.  For the life of me, I couldn't do it.  I write stories on this here little blog all the time, but I couldn't write a little story about my Grandmother.  I finally figured out why.  How do you put nearly 40 years worth of memories and stories into words and onto paper?  How do you talk about a lady who was such a huge part of your life for all those years in a way that truly honors her and who she was and the impact she had on your life?  But as I've continued over the past couple of months to think about her and all we shared together, all that we shared as a family, it all comes rushing back now.  I didn't realize until lately just how profoundly she has shaped my life.

This is my Grandmother.
This photo was taken in the mid-80s, but this is how I will ALWAYS remember her.  The only thing "wrong" with this picture is that she's sitting in Pa's chair and not her own.  I don't know why.  I think it's because she'd just finished handing out our Christmas gifts, and his chair was closest to the tree.  She loved to "dress."  She always wore a blouse with either pants or a skirt.  Usually she wore Etienne Agner heels, but as soon as those came off, she'd put those house slippers on.  She always wore those slippers.  I used to love it on the off chance that she wasn't wearing those shoes when I showed up at her house because I'd run to her closet and put them on myself.  I just loved those shoes. 

She is my grandmother, my daddy's mama.  She's also Grandmother.  That's what she insisted her "grandma name" be.  Grandmother.  She definitely has the longest "grandma name" I know, but it suits her perfectly, I tell you.  And I've always thought it a very good thing that Pa was just Pa.  One syllable.  Grandmother and Pa. 
I was the third grandchild out of eight but the eldest granddaughter.  It'd be three more years before Jennifer came along.  So I have to think she doted over me just a little bit.
I have a treasure trove of memories of just the two of us, conversations we had or special times we shared.  There are two things in particular that I will never forget as long as I live.  I wish I had pictures, but I don't.  I combed Mama's photo albums three times, and I'm just convinced there's an album missing.  Because there used to be pictures.  I just don't know where they are.  I even went to Grandmother house's and looked through all of the boxes under the stairs (that's where she kept all the cards and letters and artwork and things we made for her), but I couldn't find anything.

Anyway.  Grandmother and Pa lived in a huge, old two-story farmhouse.  The "back of the house" was where all the living went on.  The front of the house was the formal living room (which we never used), Aunt Lynne's bedroom, the formal dining room (that seated 12) and the huge foyer.  The upstairs had four bedrooms and another living area in the middle.  But there was plenty of room downstairs for plenty of folks.  And she loved having people over and entertaining.  

In the late 80s, she hosted some kind of meet-and-greet for Grace Hartley, the long-time food editor for the Atlanta Journal.  Mrs. Harley had just recently published a new book.  Grandmother pulled out all the best china and flatware (which wasn't at all unusual).  She put together a delicious little menu of fancy finger foods.  She covered her tables in starched linen tablecloths.  And she asked me to come help her serve the guests!  I was thrilled!  I was also very nervous.  I can remember wearing one of my Sunday dresses for the occasion.  Honestly, I had no idea who Grace Hartley even was, and I certainly didn't know any of the folks who came.  But it didn't matter.  All I cared about was that Grandmother thought enough of me to ask me to come.  She later gave me her copy of Mrs. Hartley's cookbook.  I pulled it off the shelf to look at it, and I'm glad I did because I'd forgotten the note she left for me in it.

On the day of my wedding, Grandmother hosted a brunch at her house for Seth's family and our wedding party.  I didn't get to go to that because I was getting my hair and make-up done, and Seth and I didn't see each other before the wedding ceremony.  I remember going with her to the Hallmark store to pick out the invitations.  They had hydrangeas on them.  I wasn't there, but I'm sure she was the hostess with the mostest at that one, too, and I'm sure she probably used the fine china and even place cards.

There was also the time Grandmother took me to the Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta to see the musical Show Boat starring Gavin MacLeod in August 1992.  (And that's something else, too . . . the TV was always on at Grandmother's house.  She watched 11 Alive news.  We always watched channel 2.  I was always so fascinated to see 11 Alive.  She loved Falcon Crest, Dynasty and Dallas.  Yes, indeed.  I didn't watch those shows at my house.  So I loved to be at her house when they were on, especially Dallas.  She also loved watching The Love Boat.  Gavin MacLeod starred at Captain Stubbing in that one.)  ANYWAY.  I'd never been to the iconic theater before.  Prior to that, I'd never even really been in downtown DOWNTOWN Atlanta before.  But we went, just the two of us.  Grandmother wore a red suit.  And I wore my favorite (at the time) Sunday dress.  We went to a matinee performance.  I can remember standing in the lobby and being absolutely in awe at the opulence of the theater.  And then we took our seats, and I looked up into the "night sky."  I was captivated.  

Most of my memories with Grandmother include all seven of my cousins.  The only thing I don't like about this picture is that Brian isn't in it.  He wasn't born until the following October.  I tried to find one of Grandmother and Pa with all of us grandchildren, but I couldn't.
I love this picture.  And you can see behind us the wedding pictures there on the bottom shelf of the built-in.  She kept wedding pictures of all four of her children right there on that shelf.  

This picture was taken probably ten or so years ago.  Pa was already gone.  Grandmother hadn't yet slipped away from us and into the world of alzheimer's.  But it wasn't too long after this.
She loved family.  She really did.  I think she lived for all the holidays when we would all get together at her house . . . the after-church Easter picnic of fried chicken, ham, potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans (and a separate pan for Jennifer without onions) and desserts on the back patio followed by the egg hunt . . . the 4th of July homemade peach ice cream and swimming and huddling together on the front porch while Pa and my uncles shot fireworks . . . Thanksgiving turkey and dressing (again a separate pan for Jennifer without onions) and every vegetable imaginable lined up across the kitchen island buffet style and followed by fruit cake, pound cake and ambrosia . . . Christmas Eve and all the gifts.  Those were the "big" ones.  Those were some good days, good times.  There were lots of in between times, too.  We spent days out of the summer swimming at her house.  She had the biggest pool I knew of.  And I got off the bus at her house during my early elementary years.  So we were there often.  She lived just through the pasture, over the hill and past the two ponds from my house.

If I had to choose Grandmother's favorite, I think it just might be Thanksgiving.  We ate the exact same meal year after year.  Grandmother would start cooking the dressing several days in advance.  She'd pull the corn and green beans out of the freezer she'd canned earlier in the summer.  There was never a question about who would bring what.  My mama and my aunts brought the exact same thing to eat every year.  So you're already thinking we're weird. Well, we just get weirder. We always sat in the same place year after year after year!  When the eight of us grandkids grew up and started getting married, we were displaced from the kitchen table that sat only eight to tables in the foyer and formal living room that would accommodate all of us.  But we always knew exactly who was sitting exactly where around that big table in the formal dining room. I just love that table!  Now, just in case anyone forgot, we'd have place cards at each seat with our names on them. Yes, place cards. Year after year after year. I really thought all families used place cards. Imagine my utter shock and dismay when I was in 1st grade and found out that my friends' families didn't use place cards! I mean, really, that was a BIG deal. I even saved the place card with Mason's name on it from his first Thanksgiving for his scrapbook!  When the grandgirls got old enough to have neat handwriting, Grandmother would let us write the place cards.  That was a big deal, y'all.  Anytime I think of Grandmother, I ALWAYS think of place cards.  Even though nobody needed them because we KNEW where to sit!  

And I've told the story before.  Every Christmas we'd have a birthday cake for Jesus.  The kids would be invited into the formal dining room where the adults ate (we ate at the kids' table in the kitchen), and Grandmother would go around and ask each one of us grandkids what we were going to give Jesus for Christmas.  Not one to be shy (and one with all the answers, too), I'd be the first to tell her exactly what I knew she was looking for.  My heart.  And then all the others would follow right along in my footsteps (Jennifer gagging all the way, I might add) and proclaim they were giving Jesus their hearts, too.  We did this year after year after year.  We just kept on giving Jesus our heart all over again.
I guess Ashley and Brian are on the other side of the table.  Adam is definitely a little over-zealous with the candle blowing out.  And I think Denise is just over the whole thing!  (Look closely, and you can see some of the place cards scattered about.)
I can't talk Christmas without mentioning Christmas lane!  Of all the days, I think that's the day I most looked forward to every year.  All the grandkids would go to Grandmothers for a quick supper and then we'd load up in the station wagon and head out to Christmas lane.  I really think they bought that old station wagon just for Christmas lane.  I used to love riding in the back of that thing.  That was before you had to wear seat belts and such so we'd all just pile into the back and find a spot wherever.  Christmas lane.  I don't even know how to describe it . . . it's just something you had to experience.  It was the 80s . . . so it really was a big deal at the time.  I mean, these were the days before the lights at Callaway Gardens and Lake Lanier and Stone Mountain and the Botanical Gardens.  Christmas Lane was where it was at.  There was a street, a subdivision maybe, in which all of the houses were decorated with outdoor lights.  Some of them even played music so you had to ride with the windows down.  It was just a homegrown lights display that was the bee's knees to a kid who loves outdoor lights.  You know what though?  I think Pa got more of a kick out of that than Grandmother did.  But she made sure it happened every year. 

I also can't talk Christmas without mentioning the ornaments.  Not just any old ornaments.  THE ornaments.  GRANDMOTHER'S ornaments.  Grandmother's Christmas tree was always, and always will be, my favorite.  It was decorated with nothing but ornaments made by she and her mother.  They would get those styrofoam balls that were wrapped in tiny satin threads and then decorate them with all kinds of beads and ribbons and trim and stickers and such.  Not a one was the same.  All I ever wanted as a child was to have a tree with ornaments just like hers.  Over the years she made some for each of our families.  I remember the year she gave each family (there were four sets because she had four children) Christmas ornaments for everyone that had our birthdays inscribed on a charm hanging from the bottom.  Mama still has all of those ornaments and has quite a little collection now of Grandmother's ornaments.  When Seth and I got married, Grandmother gave us four of them.

I'm looking forward to the day when my tree is full of her ornaments.  Those ornaments.  A long time ago, Pa converted one side of one of his barns into a craft room for her.  Grandmother loved to sew.  As a matter of fact, one summer she took each grand girl to the fabric store and let us pick out our own fabric.  She then made each of us a jumper to wear out of the fabric we picked out.  But she didn't just make mine.  She had me sit with her because she wanted to teach me how to do it.  By the way, I still remember what fabric I picked out.  It was hunter green and cream checked with red hearts in some of the little squares.  Anyway, she had all kinds of stuff in that sewing room, and that's where all the beads and balls for the Christmas decorations were.  The beads were organized in those little glass Gerber baby food jars.  One summer Grandmother had all eight of us grandkids over to spend the night.  She wanted us to make our own ornaments.  She had tables and chairs set up for us so that's what we did.  I made four.  They were all pastel colors - pink, blue, yellow and green.  Rob made a royal blue one decorated with red and green beads.

On occasion, I'd go to the grocery store with Grandmother.  I loved that!  She went to the Kroger.  Mama always went to the Piggly Wiggly.  I really loved that Kroger, the old one on Taylor Street before they moved to the new shopping center on 1941.  I thought it was a real treat to go with Grandmother to Kroger.  I loved riding in her car because she always had a half eaten roll of certs or some other mint in the crook of the seat.  I could usually find a cert on the desk in her bedroom, too.  We didn't have those at my house either.

Grandmother loved her family.  She loved her home.  She loved home-making.  She loved sewing and canning and cooking.  She was born in Florida.  Her grandparents lived in Hollonville (Georgia) so she'd come visit every summer.  That's how she met my Pa.  After they were married, she moved to Hollonville and made it her forever home.  She'd visit her parents and her sisters and brother in Orlando often.  I remember those trips.  But I do think she loved Hollonville.  You know, you think of all the things you want to ask somebody after you can no longer ask them.  I'd love to ask her about that, about leaving her family and her friend and everything she knew as "home" to marry Pa and make a new home in a new place far away.  That's what I'd really love to talk to her about.  She had a beautiful oil painting done of her wedding portrait that hung in her bedroom.  I took a picture of it last time I was there.

Grandmother was always very involved in church and church life.  She taught Sunday School.  She played the piano and the organ.  Not at the same time though.  She's the only person I've ever known who had both a piano AND an organ in her home.  Grandmother loved her Lord.  And she knew her Bible.  She had pages and pages of it memorized.  I don't know how she did it.  That's something else I sure would like to ask her.  I remember one time in particular when I was little.  There was a knock at the door.  There was a couple who wanted to share with her a "word" from their church.  They quoted a Bible verse or two.  She looked at them and said, "Now let me FINISH quoting the verse you just did because you left off the whole last part of it."  Needless to say, they left.  Grandmother was a King James kind of girl.  I was an NIV kind of girl back in my younger days.  I was in college at the time.  I'd make a point to go visit her when I came home.  By this time, my Pa had died.  I think a little bit of her died that day, too.  Things never were quite the same after that.  So I was visiting with her during one of my weekends home, and we were talking about the Bible.  I quoted a verse.  In the NIV.  I don't even remember now which one it was.  She just as quick looked at me and said, "Don't you be messing up the King's English."  And then she quoted the verse to me in the KJV.  She wasn't being rude or mean.  I just chuckled a little bit.  But she was serious.  She was serious about knowing her Bible.

I can also remember the day I told her I was pregnant and was having a girl.  I told her we were naming the baby Hannah Katherine and that she would be called Hannah Kate.  I went through the whole spill about the double name and insisted that she would, indeed, be called Hannah Kate.  Grandmother looked at me and said, "Well, I don't know why you want to do that."  I thought she was talking about the whole double name thing.  Then she said, "You could at least name her Kathleen."  Well, that's not exactly what I was expecting.  But then it hit me.  Kathleen was Grandmother's middle name.  So she was suggesting Kathleen instead of Katherine.

Vivian Kathleen.  Or was it . . .

Grandmother was all of the good, loving, kind, gentle Grandmotherly things.  She was a Southern belle from head to toe.  But.  She could be spunky.  And I mean, spunky.  She could get fired up.  If you know what I mean.  Fired. up.  So she had a little sass about her.

When I went home for her funeral, Daddy, Mama and I went to her house one last time.  I wanted to look around, walk through the house one last time.  That's when I went looking underneath the staircase for pictures and such.  I found an old scrapbook she'd made.  It looked to be from her latter years in high school.  At the end of the scrapbook was a clipping of her wedding announcement from the Orlando newspaper.  I read through it, and I immediately saw it.  Kathleene.  Kathleene was spelled with an "e" at the end.  I'd never seen it spelled that way.  I always thought it was Kathleen without an "e" at the end.  So I showed it to Mama and asked her about it.  We both agreed it must've been a misprint.  Although, I honestly find it hard to believe Grandmother didn't make them do a re-print with the correct spelling!  That would be her.

Last fall I'd decided to do some genealogy research.  After Grandmother died, I knew I wanted to start with her family first.  I got what I could from my mama and Aunt Lynne.  It wasn't much.  But I didn't know where to begin.  My BFF did an extensive genealogy research project for her family a few years ago so I reached out to her and asked her for advice and just exactly how and where to get started.  Long story short, she'd been working on a little surprise for me.  She knew Grandmother, too.  She put together a binder for me to walk me through the steps of effective research and even used Grandmother as my example.  It was supposed to be a surprise, but I sort of ruined it a bit.  She emailed me some pages she found in Grandmother's old yearbooks.  There was a page in her senior yearbook with Grandmother's picture, a quote and a list of her clubs and accomplishments.  But the very first thing I saw was her name.  Vivian Kathleene Scott.  KATHLEEN WITH AN "E!"  IN HER SENIOR YEARBOOK.

So I immediately messaged mama and Aunt Lynne.  I just figured I'd had it wrong all these years.  But I was shocked when Aunt Lynne said she never knew it to have an "e" on the end.  She went through some more documents for me.  Grandmother's birth certificate does not have the "e" on the end.  It was spelled Kathleene with an "e" on the wedding invitation and her marriage certificate.  So, at this point, we have no idea, no explanation for the mystery of the "e."  That would be something else I'd ask Grandmother if I could talk to her again.  I think, from a legal standpoint, her middle name is Kathleen without the "e" since that's the way it's spelled on her birth certificate.  But.  Here's my theory.

My middle name is Lynne after my Aunt Lynne.  I've known several Lynn's in my life, but I don't know any Lynne's with an "e" besides my aunt and me.  I even questioned Grandmother about the spelling of our names years ago.  I asked her why she put an "e" on the end of it.  And do you know what she told me?  She said it's spelled with an "e" because that's the way the French do it!  Well.  We are not in France.  And, as far as I know, my family is not from France.  I haven't had time to really look into this whole French spelling thing to know if that's really true or not.  Spanish was the only foreign language offered when I was in high school so I know not one thing about France and the French except that I sure would love to visit Paris one day.  But she was so serious, y'all.  And, at the time, I totally believed her!  So I think she was trying to do the same thing to Kathleen.  Make it French.  With an "e."  Either that, or her favorite letter was "e!"  I mean, somewhere, somehow along the way, she was trying to change the spelling of her middle name.

Gosh.  There are SO MANY things I remember.  When I visited her on my weekends home from college, she often times had a bowl of soup for me.  Broccoli or chicken noodle.  Her chicken noodle soup was a little different though.  But I loved it.  Every once in awhile she'd take the grandgirls to eat at the Bulloch House.  She loved that restaurant.  She always had a glass of tea on the table beside her chair.  For awhile she was really into making sun tea.  I didn't care for it all that much.  I still remember that big jug of tea sitting out on the back steps.

About seven or so years ago, Grandmother was diagnosed with alzheimer's.  I knew what was coming.  I saw it everyday during my years working at a retirement community.  I just never imagined it would be MY grandmother sitting there staring off in the distance with not a clue who I even was.  And, of course, because I could go home only twice or so a year, it wasn't long before she didn't know who I was.  I'd always go visit her, always take the children.  She loved the children.  She didn't know who they were.  But she loved them and played with them.  They'd hide behind her chair and try to sneak up on her.  She'd act like she wasn't paying attention, like she didn't even see them.  And then all of a sudden she'd look their way and go, "Boo!"  She had them rolling.  Here she is with Hannah Kate in September 2010.
Grandmother knew that she was supposed to know me.  And she did a pretty good job with it, too.  We'd still talk and have conversations together.  But then it got to the point where it was nearly impossible to have a conversation with her anymore because I just didn't have a clue what she was talking about.  And then the day came Thanksgiving a year ago when she just looked straight through me.  Like I wasn't even there.  Grandmother was called to her eternal heavenly home on November 26, 2016.  But she left us a long time ago.

I had not planned to visit at all, but the Lord so graciously allowed me to see her and talk to her just three days before she went home.  I talked to her, but she didn't even acknowledge the sound of my voice, didn't even turn my way.  I held her hand, but she didn't even acknowledge my touch.  Nothing.  I always said it would be such a relief, such a joy when the Lord did call her home because she'd finally be made well and whole again.  She'd be more alive than I've ever been here on this earth.  But, man.  November 26 was a sad day.  So sad.  I thought that because I'd already been mourning her loss for what seemed like too many years already, the years that alzheimer's ravaged, I wouldn't mourn anymore.  Or maybe that it would somehow be easier.  It wasn't.  It really wasn't.

On the day of her memorial service, we were all together again.  Her sons and daughter.  The grandchildren.  Some of the great-grands.  Her nieces and nephews that we hadn't seen IN YEARS.  As a matter of fact, I was trying to remember the last time all of my cousins and I were together.  I'm the only one who moved away.  I think it's been eight or so years.  But we were all together on that day.
And, because I'm the oldest, bossy girl cousin . . . I hope each and every one of you know just how special you were to her, how much you meant to her and just how proud of you she was.  Every last one of you!  I know that because she told me so.  I wish she could see us now.  I wish Pa could see us now!  And all the great-grands.

Scott, she was so proud of your military service.  And then you followed in Pa's footsteps and opened that old tire store.  And the John Deere place.  Adam, she was so proud that you gave her the very first great-grand.  She'd be so proud of your new home now and your family.  Rob, she loved how you'd come up there and visit with her after Pa died.  She was proud of you for working hard and building that house.  Your three boys would remind her of her three boys.  Jennifer, I wish she could see you now, could know that you ran 1,000 miles (literally) or something crazy like that last year, could see your family of seven (because who would've ever thought?!).  Denise, she would be so proud of you, Teacher of the Year. She would be so proud of the way you and Lamar are a forever family for your three boys.  Ashley, I know she always loved visiting with you and your girls, and I know Wyatt would just tickle her to death as much as he loves tractors and the farm.  She'd be so proud of you for getting your real estate license.  Brian, I told you this already, but she'd have your campaign sign proudly displayed in her yard even though she doesn't live in District 111.  Oh, how I wish she could know that her grandson serves in the Georgia State House.  I just can't imagine what she'd say about that, but I know it would be real good.

I'm sure she'd be the first to tell you that she wasn't perfect.  She wasn't the perfect wife or the perfect mother or even the perfect grandmother.  But you know what?  She was the BEST Grandmother!

As we were driving up to the cemetery, I remember thinking I just couldn't believe we were doing that, we were going there.  It was a very sweet, very intimate service.  There's a nursing home ministry at my uncle's church, and they visited Grandmother each month.  The gentleman who spent the most time with her spoke to us at her memorial service.  He knew her only during those years of memory loss.  He said the way he got to know her was by taking his CD player and playing and singing hymns with her.  She had no clue who he was, no clue who her own family was, but she could sing every. single. word. to those old hymns!  He said she'd sing even the ones he didn't know.  One such hymn was Little Brown Church in the Vale (or Church in the Wildwood).  He said she'd get to singing real loud sometimes.  Now, this is definitely a lesser-known hymn.  But not to her.  And then he proceeded to share with us the last verse of this hymn because it reminded him so of her:

Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the dale,
No spot is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.
From the church in the valley by the wildwood,
When day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood
Wing my way to the mansions of light.  

I miss her right now.  But.  She's wearing her crown.  And she's in her mansion.  She always had a preference for the "finer" things in life.  And now she has her CROWN.  I have no doubt she's wearing it well.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will give to me on that day."  ~2 Timothy 4:7-8

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What's Up Wednesday: January Edition

How is it already the last Wednesday in January?!

This wasn't "this week" exactly, but a couple of weeks ago I shared on my IG feed a chicken Milanese and four cheese penne.  I thought it was an absolutely lovely meal.
 It was fancy without being fancy.  And you know what?  My people did not like it.  At all.  I mean, I didn't even put the salad on their plates, much less on top of their chicken!

Another of my favorites this month was soup.  We had all of two (yes, TWO . . . I am so not even exaggerating on this one) cold days this month, and I took full advantage of it.  I couldn't decide which soup to make so I made all three:  baked potato because I knew everyone would eat it, and it's Hannah Kate's favorite, broccoli cheddar because I had a beautiful head of broccoli a friend gave us from his garden and chicken noodle because I just wanted chicken noodle, and I wanted an excuse to roast a whole chicken so my house would smell good!

Sometimes I cook a meal that just "takes me back."  You know what I mean.  It just takes me back to my Mama's kitchen and my childhood days.  Kinda like the song . . . country roads take me home to the place where I belong . . . But, I digress.  

Anyway, this was one of those.  It wasn't for us, but I sure enjoyed cooking it on Monday.  My Mama put a roast in the oven every Sunday before church, and it was already ready when we got home.  This squash casserole is my all-time favorite and reminds me of my Grandmother.  I'd much rather mashed potatoes than rice any day of the week.  My favorite way to eat green beans is sautéed in olive oil until they are just crisp tender and seasoned with sea salt and lemon pepper.  But smothered in bacon isn't too bad either.

But this week we had lasagna on Monday night, teriyaki chicken bowls with broccoli and pineapple last night (no worries . . . I set aside a couple of the chicken breasts to oven "fry" for the kids and served that with macaroni and cheese) and my crockpot is full of chili for tonight.  Tomorrow night we're having mini ground turkey meat loaves with mashed potatoes and butter beans.  I'm not sure about the weekend yet, but it will probably involve steak and French onion soup.

Honestly, I haven't been thinking back a whole lot.  I've spent most of my time either living in the moment or looking forward.  That's a really good place to be right now. 

I got a new pair of glasses a couple of weeks ago, and I absolutely love them!  Yes, I know.

I also really enjoy spending my Sunday mornings with these kids.  We are very small in number, but it is such a privilege to lead them in Bible study.  I never ever imagined myself teaching the youth class, but the Lord had other plans.

It's really just everyday life over here.  We did go to both of LSU's home gym meets and a boys' basketball game.  I have to admit I'm getting into the gymnastics thing.  Ellie is, too.  I'm afraid she's about to trade in her ballet and tap shoes for the balance beam and trampoline.  Actually, I'm MORE afraid that she's going to ask to do BOTH.  I can't even think about that right now.  All I can say is that she's rather captivated when watching gymnastics.  This was taken at the gymnastics meet last Friday night.

Nothing really.  I mean, dance costume pictures are going to be a little crazy this year from a logistical standpoint, but probably doesn't even count (see below for what I'm looking forward to next month!).

I'm getting ready to teach Ellie how to read.  She seems to have a good handle on phonics now, and she so wants to be able to read.  She carries books around with her all the time and "pretends" like she's reading.  I know it's still early yet.  So we'll see how it goes.

I also need to get serious about teaching Hannah Kate how to play the piano.  I think she's going to pick it up really quickly.  I just need to be more disciplined in our lesson time.

Mason wants to learn how to play the violin.  I have no idea why.  I mean, he heard me say a couple of years or so ago that I wanted to learn to play the violin.  So maybe that's where it came from?  He's constantly beating on things so it makes more sense to me that he'd want to play the drums.  Not that I'm at all open to that.  Or the guitar.  Why not the guitar?  So I started thinking that maybe we could take lessons together.  Violin lessons, that is.  I'm just not sure yet how to make that happen.  

There's a little something I've been thinking on for several years now.  It's one of those things that I'm not sure yet how it will come to be.  Or even if it will come to be.  Maybe it falls into the category of dreams perhaps.  But God has graciously opened (or rather cracked) the door.  For the first time in six years, I'm not participating in Bible Study Fellowship this year.  It just didn't work with our homeschool schedule, and I knew the Lord was calling me to fully commit to homeschooling.  That meant I had to leave BSF.  It was hard.  It was harder than hard!  But I'm hopeful that opportunity will come around again.  So that just means I've been doing something different for my own personal Bible study.  A few weeks ago, I decided to do Kelly Minter's All Things New Bible study.  I bought the student book and just planned to do it on my own.  It's really designed to be done in community with other ladies.  The Lord ultimately burdened my heart to see if there were any ladies who wanted to join me.  I wasn't expecting much, but I put it out there.  Next Monday my living room will be filled with ten or so ladies who are joining me for Bible study!  How exciting is that?!

I'm almost finished reading my fourth book of the month.  Yes.  Four books!  In one month!  I absolutely love to read, always have.  That's my happy place.  I decided I wanted more of that in my life this year so I made it happen.  The first book I read was Natchez Burning.  And, oh my!  This book captivated my attention from start to finish (except for the fact that the last few chapters were rather unbelievable - literally - in a plot that otherwise was).  Even though there were a few things I didn't like about this book, I'm definitely reading the next one in the series!  Really and truly, mysteries are my favorite!  I then read Karen Kingsbury's Shades of Blue.  I used to read a lot of her books.  The Redemption series will always be my favorite of hers.  I read The Legacy.  It was okay.  My favorite part of that book was the setting - England!  And now I'm almost finished with The Ashford Affair.  Again, England.  Next on my list is The Secret Life of Bees.  I've heard so much about this one, and it was actually Natchez Burning that finally led me here.

So, instead of watching anything, I read.  Football season is now over.  Except for one last game.  Normally, I'd care less about the game itself and more about the food and the commercials.  But this year?  RISE UP!

The birdies and the frogs and the crickets.  And I hear the pounding of a basketball on concrete and the laughter of a child.  Seriously.  I'm currently sitting in the truck with my windows rolled down while Hannah Kate is at dance.  I have another two hours and fifteen minutes left.

For the first time in a very long time, I have absolutely nothing written in pen in my planner for the weekend.  That doesn't mean I won't be doing anything.  That just means I'm not planning to do anything.  I'm hoping it will stay that way.

February is not my favorite month.  But it does get us to March.  So that's what I'm looking forward to.  But, if it has to involve February, the thing I'm most looking forward to, I guess, is the girls' dance pictures.  I just can't believe it's that time already!  We absolutely love their costumes this year, especially for ballet.

I forgot to mention this last time, but Ellie is riding her bike without training wheels now! She actually learned how right after Thanksgiving.  Mason and Hannah Kate were ultimately responsible for teaching her how.  And she's so proud of herself.  She's the cutest thing flying through the yard on her bike.