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Magnolias and Memories

17 May

It’s the beginning of summer. When the air is still cool enough to enjoy being outside even when the sun is at its peak and high overhead. The wisteria and honey suckle are long since gone, but the magnolias are blooming.

Magnolias are not our state flower, but I have no idea why. They embody our great southern state of South Carolina. They represent us…Just go to any tourist jaunt and you’ll find something magnolia….a candle, a plate…a sign. They pepper our back yards and line the parking lots of nearly every place I can think of.

Magnolias = a southern state of mind.

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When my grand-precious and I take our bike rides,  her on her beloved frozen bike with silver tassels swaying from the handle bars and a fuzzy pink troll helmet a top her head, me walking briskly behind, we make a pit stop by the grand magnolia trees lining our neighborhood to drink in the fragrance. Burying our noses into the blossoms deeply, until the dream like fragrance fills our lungs and reaches our toes. They always bring a smile and a bit of amazement. Giant, bold blooms. Stark white petals, unfolding one by one to reveal the cone. The cone is a wonder all its own to be honest. Dancing with the branches, it releases the seeds (or carpels according to google) as the bloom begins to die. A last ditch effort for survival, I suppose. Hoping one of the seeds returns to ground to become a new. My grand-precious collects the seeds in her pockets as if they were treasure. “Look at this one Gigi” as she points to a new bloom. Scooping out the seeds of another to add to her collection.

I watch her and the corners of my smile nearly touches my eyes. When we first started this routine, I just wanted to point out new things for her to wonder about and to stretch her imagination. To ride around (and not over) the centipede crossing the sidewalk. To notice the way the stream moves and winds under the bridge. To see new wild flowers that were not there yesterday and wonder where they came from.

Today as I was watching her, I thought…when I’m long since gone, I hope she smells a magnolia bloom drifting through the early summer air and thinks about me.
The way I do when I think about my Gram….I can’t see a Burger King commercial without thinking about her. The lady loved her a whopper! Or the way my son does – my grand-precious’ father, when he sees a Sonic….because she equally loved a banana split and often used his visits to indulge in one with him! It’s funny the way the mind works and triggers memories.

Yesterday we were in Gram’s “neck of the woods” over on Folly Beach. We passed a Sonic and my 28 year old said “I think I had my first banana split over there.” We talked for a few minutes about Gram, banana splits and whoppers until the air fell heavy with the sadness that rises from losing someone you loved. My son said, “I miss Grandma Cox.”

“Yeah, me too buddy. But man did she love us. She loved us so hard.”
‘Yeah, she did.” He replied softly.

And so when I saw my little, beautiful, grand precious breathing in that big, bold magnolia blossom, I thought – I hope these memories get etched in her magnificent mind. When she is grown and I’m long since gone, it will serve as a reminder that she was loved. Loved so hard, and so deep, with every ounce of my being. Down to her toes and to the very tip of head. She is loved.

The way I do when I think of my Gram.

lina

 

XoXo,

Lady Chats A lot 

Shutting down the world

21 Mar

Sometimes I dabble at writing a blog. Frankly, if you follow me, it’s been a minute… I honestly don’t pick the topics. They roll around on my heart and stay on repeat in my mind until the only way I can get them out is to put them on paper. That is the case with the writing below. I am not a super Christian, nor do I play one on t.v..

The world is a crazy place right now. Legit, crazy. We are living in unprecedented times. No one really knows what they are doing… What we should be doing….I find it difficult to follow those in leadership because while we are supposed to be “flatting the curve” we have no way of really knowing if it is working due to the lack of tests available… In a matter of just a few weeks, we’ve seen huge layoffs, school closures and a shortage of toilet paper. If you would have told me at the start of 2020 that a virus would shut down the world, I would have thought that was an impossibility. Yet here we are in the middle of a pandemic, and the Corona Virus is doing just that – shutting down the world.

It’s a scary time, no doubt. Worry and anxiety are at it’s peak. (At least it feels like it is at it’s peak – but let the chicken nuggets my kids eat run out at the grocery and I’m at a whole new level of anxiety!)

To deal with it all, I find myself diving deeper into prayer, into scripture, into places that I can latch on to other Christians to find hope before the curtain of darkness (which feels all to close) falls around us.

In my quest, I landed on a video where our church worship leader said something that just resonated deep within me. He said something to the effect of “We are all social distancing to keep the virus at bay. But social distancing is just unhuman.”

WOW!!! 

Yes….as Christians we are taught that we are created for relationship. Wayyyyy back in Genesis 2:18 we read  “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (NIV). We were not meant to be alone. Men, certainly were not meant to be alone. (I kid, I kid…)

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Here is where I know I’ll lose some of you…but stay with me, ok!

Say what you will but I believe in the spiritual battle between good and evil. I know there will be some people rolling their eyes at this point, and maybe you’ll even stop reading. I get it.

I didn’t always know about this spiritual battle nor did I believe in it. But it is actually in scripture. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of the evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10.12, NIV)

Could it be then that this virus is a spiritual attack meant to divide our relationships? To cause distance between “them” and “us”? I’m not disputing that this is a REAL virus. I’m saying, could there be more to it? If you believe in scripture, this is not to much of a stretch.

So what do we do? How can we prevent the darkness from taking hold, from gaining ground?

1)  Spend time with the Lord. Let him lead you; calm you. My prayer is that you hear his voice. Dive deep into your Bible. There are so many resources out there if you are not a reader or find the Bible difficult to navigate. (I was there too – a good study Bible is everything!) I love watching Joyce Meyer, or Pastor TD Jakes. Find something that brings you closer to God. Pray on your walks around your neighborhood. Look for his beauty – and you will find it. Those are some of my sweetest moments….when I’m just walking outside, looking for something good – and God sends a special moment or ah-ha thought. Try it.

2) Be kind. Look for ways to help others. Don’t allow ‘me versus them’ mentality to take root. During a crisis, we will see the worst and the best of humanity. Be part of the best. If you have a few extra bucks, donate to a blessing box or food pantry. Offer to pick up groceries for someone who is high risk. Protect yourself but do what you can.

3) Spend time with your family. The ones that live in your house. Call or face time the people who don’t! Stay connected! Don’t let this time in quarantine be sucked up with hours of social media scrolling!

My grand-precious and I have a routine that she calls “relaxing”. It’s where I decide I’ve had enough of the day – and I go upstairs to the quiet of my room. I turn on the tv or read, but essentially all of my mom, work, and wife duties are over. I’ve clocked out. At some point during her five years on the planet, she has decided that she should join me in “relaxing”. This means that I’m not officially off the clock, but it does provide one-on-one time with my girl, and that is not lost on me.

Last night I said, “I think I’m going upstairs.” Her green eyes widened, and she said “I want to go with you! To relax! I can relax with you!”

Of course I said okay and before long she was snuggled under the covers with me on her Poppa’s side of the bed. She loves to learn (a child after my own heart), and we buy her these big learning books. She already sailed through the K5 book so we are onto the first grade book. This makes her sit up a little taller, as she says, “I can do first grade, Gigi!”. We get started on the first few pages, with me reading the directions and her doing the work. She has her blue crayon in her right hand, and she is giving it her all. Sounding out the letters “kkk aaa ttt …Cat!” and learning new words. At some point, ten-ish minutes or so in to “relaxing”, and she purrs, “I looove you Gigi”.

WorkThat’s it. That’s all it took to fill up my heart and wash away the day. We are created for relationship. We need it. I need it. Baby girl needs it. Hold on to your people and to God during this crazy time.

Join me in prayer:

Dear Lord,
I don’t even know how to deal with this Corona Virus. I don’t understand its presence in our world. What I do know is that you are not caught by surprise. Lord, help us through this. Strengthen our hearts and our immune systems as we put on the

“full armor of God…standing firm…with the readiness that comes form the gospel of peace.” We “take up the shield of faith..to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”…and we carry ”the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17).

Just like you did Lord during Passover this very time of year so long ago, please allow the virus to pass over this house. Over our friend’s and family’s houses. For you are not a God of favorites. If you’ve done it once before, you will do it again. Lord I ask for your peace that surpasses all understanding. I pray for your guidance, your protection and your wisdom during this trying time.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

xoxo – Lady Chats A Lot 

 

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An optimist, a pessimist and a realist walk into a bar…

19 Jan

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I’m not exactly sure how the conversation started. This very young, cute-sy, twenty something year old tells me how optimism is really the cure for all things painful. That’s not exactly what he said, but that is what I heard. My eyes narrowed to slits, I took in his perfectly coifed hair do, not a single black strand out of place. His slim blue suit was on point… He could have just stepped out of a magazine spread. Legit. I wish I would have taken his picture just to show you. No doubt, his broad smile had opened a few doors, and likely even more zippers. No, no he isn’t at all my type, even if I were single (which I’m not.  I’m WAAAYYY married, like 22 years of marriage – married.) That’s not where this story is going, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give you the background.

I stood there taking him in (judging this book by the cover) and wondered if he really believed what he was saying. Could optimism really be the cure for all things? Could bad things cease to exist by simply not acknowledging them? Had he been successful with this concept?

My response, “hmmm… I’m not sure about that. I’m more of a realist. Neither believing all things are good, or bad. But allowing space for both.”

He sputtered a bit and I continued to stare. I do that sometimes when I’m thinking. I stare …and blink….and remain uncomfortably quiet. Wanting to be cynical and ask him for the resume of loved lost, evaporated dreams, crushed opportunities….and yet willing myself to not go there. For one, I didn’t want to have to share my list (if asked)….and I honestly found it hard to believe that he had experienced enough to hold the conversation. I stared until I noticed him blushing and then said “do you really believe that?”

Yes, of course he did.

Would he in ten years? In twenty? I don’t know.

I know that I’ve learned that life is not all good or all bad. It certainly isn’t fair. Bad things DO happen to good people.

Positivity is such an endearing quality and I really do try to “look on the bright side”. I start each day fresh.  I forgive (even when I don’t want to.) I believe the energy you put out in the world is the energy you get back. Some call it karma, some say it’s biblical with “you reap what you sow”.

I also allow space for heartache. For disappointment. On those days I don’t simply suck it up and power my way through.

I feed it Chick-Fila….and chocolate. Sometimes vodka …I smother my self with blankets and wallow in the sorrow of it all. I take the time to be there, to breathe in the heaviness, and to grieve. I allow myself to cry. Nothing feels more lonely to a  person struggling than suggesting they barrel through to the land of sunshine and roses powered only on fumes and a fake smile.

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No. No, it is ok to be sad too. Some where along the way I think we’ve forgotten that.

The trick is, not staying there for to long. At some point, you have to bid it farewell. Pack it’s lunch and send it on its way. It’s even okay to offer a warm goodbye hug or two. He will be back….sadness, disappointment, heartache… They always return at some point, knocking the dust from their boots as the enter through the threshold. They find their way to your table and ask for coffee. While it brews, you wonder how you got here, again….We can only pray the visits are few and far between…maybe that’s just my realistic world view. Maybe it’s not the same for everyone.

The ebb and flow of life. It’s hard to appreciate triumph if you have not experienced defeat. It’s hard to know true love without first knowing heartache. Sometimes the two are intertwined and inseparable.

A realist searching for balance –  believing that to far to the left or to the right is neither right or wrong …it is just to far.

What lens do you use to view the world?

Caution: curves ahead

22 Mar

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This week I watched a recent video of myself that I made with my son.  I was shocked  at the image I saw reflecting back at me. I’ve had a rough couple of years with some things …and apparently, I am an emotional eater….or possibly an emotional drinker… maybe…I’ve found a fondness for red wine and it found a roomy home on my hips.

Over the last few months, I began moving the clothes that no longer fit to the left side of my closet. I’m still flabbergasted  when I’m unable to pull up the pants I’ve worn for the last 10+ years past my thighs….The pile on the left of the closet  is large.

This means I’ve also had to  purchased new pants – begrudgingly. My collection is minimal in comparison. It was either that or go naked… I had no choice in the matter. Yes, leggings work well and are cheap…but they hide the fact that I appear to be growing – out, not up. At this point, my ass could qualify for it’s own zip code…

So, I’m watching this video thinking – How in the world?  Really.  How did I let myself gain 30 pounds? When I look in the mirror I know I’m bigger…but this video.  Lord, please promise me that the camera adds 10 pounds…that I really don’t look that way in REAL life.

But the truth is I’m now heavier than when I delivered both of my children.  I know I’m teetering on the verge of no return….and I don’t know what to do about it.  Don’t get me wrong. I know there are many women larger than myself. This isn’t about them. THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL. This is about me feeling good, or not, in my own five-foot-five-and-half skin.

This is how my day starts:  I try on a new black skirt that arrived yesterday.  To tight.  I contemplated keeping it for “when I lose the weight” but more than slightly depressed at the likely hood of that NOT happening, I tossed the skirt on the bed to return later.

I then selected white slacks that I knew were a size or two larger. They fit, but the view from behind was not so cute….On went the Spanx – boy shorts.  Spanx, the well-known by ladies around the world (but rarely seen by men) undergarments that are made to make me look skinner.  Yet, I some how now feel like a sausage.  A bratwurst to be specific…But damn it to heck, I have to go with this outfit because I’ve already worn the other two pants that fit me this week.  Tomorrow it’s jeans….

I tossed on a cute shirt from a local boutique that I haven’t worn since last summer. It was a little snug across the chest but nothing terrible I thought…However, the more I moved my flat iron across my hair, I realized it was too constricting.  I no longer liked it.  Crossing my arms at my waist to lift the fabric….I find I can’t. I was stuck. I couldn’t get this damn shirt off my body.  I twisted, I tried….I grunted…I thought, “Imma have to cut this bitch off.”…For a second I contemplated running downstairs to wake up one of my children to help me pull this sucker off….I’m not sure I’d live that one down…EVVAHH… Five minutes and a few tears later, I wiggled out of  shirt looking like I’d been on a subway fight. Red in the face, hair a mess…

I promptly moved it to the left side of my closet.  My first thought?

You know you are fat when you get stuck in your freakin’ shirt. What the hell…

On to work. As I’m walking up the sidewalk I say a little prayer.  “Lord, I don’t like this. I don’t like how I feel about me. You love me and have helped me in so many ways.  Help me to lose this weight.”

Fast forward through my day.

I’m in the ladies room where a coworker asks How I’m doing. “busy. good.” I say.    I tell her she looks beautiful today.  She shrugs, not believing my words, her eyes drifting away from me.  Then she says, “You look good too. How did you gain your weight? Eating too much.”

Yessssss. She said those words.

Before you get riled up and ready to kick ass, please hear her story.

She is from South America. She LOVES curves.  Which until her recent weight loss, she had — curves for dayyyys!  She tells me, almost too eagerly, she can’t wait until she can put on some pounds.  She is serious…This I know.

I tell her I’ll shift her some of mine – If only it were that easy!   She then says with a large grin and wiggling eyebrows,  “I bet your husband is happy” as she points to my zip code carrying ass….

She is losing weight not because she wants to friends, but because of the chemo.  You see, she has breast cancer.  She wears a scarf to cover the hair loss which makes her self-conscious.  She has a hard time looking me in the eyes,  really – looking anyone in the eyes, these days.  Yet, I think she looks more beautiful than in any day prior.  Her warrior spirit is shining.  She is fighting and it shows. Without the distraction of her hair, which was indeed gorgeous, her eyes become the focal point, dancing in the light.  She is simply stunning.

I get back to my desk and think, “You know your fat when…”

Then I stop.  I close my eyes….I sense God’s hand…and I pray.

I thank God that I’m healthy.  Specifically, I thank him for my cancer free body.  With embarrassment, I apologize for believing anything different. A few extra pounds is nothing in comparison. I thank him for this lesson, for humbling my spirit.  I know I have some work to do…and I will.

Ladies, would you please join me in shifting our focus away from who we want to be and allow ourselves permission to be who we are?  Let’s not put our self-worth in our hair, our bodies, our curves – or lack of…

PS – If no one told you today, let me have the honor of doing so.  I love you. You are beautiful.

Put that on repeat.

Perspective.

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