this little light of mine

Let it shine (3/25/2015)

“Mama, is it bad that I am happy?”

The question came out of the blue one evening.

What prompted it, I do not know, but the question was asked and needed an answer.

“No, it is a wonderful thing. Why do you ask?”

He gave me a forlorn frown. “I dunno. I just wonder if it is bad to be so happy all the time.”

I am one who wonders why I am so serious all the time and feel like I don’t enjoy many moments like I should because I am so wrapped up in worry and ‘what can go wrong’ – so for my child to question if it is wrong to be happy made me concerned.

“What would make you think it was a bad thing?” I asked.

He sighed. Like his mother, he is a sigher.

When he doesn’t know how to respond, what to do, or is exasperated – usually by me – he sighs.

“A kid told me it was wrong…and called me a really ugly name about it. He said for me to be so happy all the time, was stupid and there must be something bad wrong with me.”

“When did this happen?” I asked.

“Last year. I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t want that vein to pop out on your neck and your eyebrow to do that Spock thing when you get mad.”

Hearing this made me naturally upset. My normal instinct whenever I hear my child is hurt is to go into total Mama Cat mode, which often means unleashing locusts and other unnatural disasters. When it is a child doing the hurting, I have come to realize, maybe their own home life is not that great. Maybe that child is hurting for some reason, and the only reason they do ugly things, is because that’s the only time they get attention.

Sadly, hurting people hurt others.

We may not know why they are hurting or that they even are – we just can tell by the way they treat others. They aren’t able to let someone else have their own little corner of happiness.

But why do they want to hurt the ones who are just letting their little lights shine?

It’s children who are unhappy, unloved, and don’t get the attention they need and deserve at home that want to hurt the children that are happy, full of joy, and bounce like Tigger because their ‘spark’ is so full.

It’s the children who, even when they are in trouble, know they are at least getting attention.

It’s the children who would be mean to my child, because he is tenderhearted and compassionate and would feel bad for those kids because he saw they were sad or, their sparks were not happy.

It’s not just children, either.

There are plenty of adults who have a hard time seeing others be happy.

For some reason, there are scores and scores of people who think if someone is happy, enjoying life, or has something, that it is taking something away from them.

If someone experiences success, joy, or anything that makes them happy, some people’s immediate reaction is to try to snuff out the joy. To rain on their parade, to burst their proverbial bubble.

Why that is, I don’t know.

But it happens. All the time.

And it needs to stop.

People need to realize, a candle does not lose its flame by igniting others; if anything, the light grows bigger, brighter and stronger.

Someone’s joy is not creating another’s sadness.

Someone’s success does not equal another’s failure.

We need to learn there is beauty in celebrating other people’s happy moments, instead of rejoicing when they fail.

“Baby, I am so sorry someone said that, and I am sorry they called you something ugly,” I began. “You are right; I would be angry and would have unleashed locusts. I would. But it also saddens me that another child must be so unhappy that they would try to tell you it’s wrong to be so happy. You know that is wrong, right? That it is absolutely perfect you that are as happy as you are. It shows me and Daddy are doing something right.”

I am sure we mess up 100 different ways daily, but I feel like the fact Cole is a happy child at least proves he knows, above all, that he is unconditionally loved.

He nodded. “I know. It just hurt my feelings to be called a bad word. I never call people those words.”

I knew he didn’t. He knows the power of words and that they should be used to build people up, not tear them down.

“I know,” I said gently.

“It made my spark dull for a while, Mama,” he said. “I didn’t want to show others my happy.”

His quiet, sincere admission hurt my heart.

My child finds happiness and joy in the simplest of things. Fluffy clouds in the sky, squirrels chasing each other down a tree, finding his favorite gum on sale – these are things that delight my child to no end. Hearing good news about a friend or family member makes him beam from ear to ear.

His spirit is one of total and utter joy that I have honestly never experienced.

“Cole, that would be a great tragedy, my love,” I began. “Part of why you are here, is to be happy and to show others how to be happy no matter what.”

“So what should I do, Mama?” he asked.

What should he do? When did joy and happiness become a crime?
“Like the song says, baby. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

you always need your mama

You always need your Mama (3/18/2015)

“So, how are Mama and Uncle Bobby doing without Granny?” my friend Renee asked as she took a seat across the table from me.

I sighed. How to answer that?

Granny had always threatened to one day show Mama and Bobby how they couldn’t make it without her, saying she was going to get her an efficiency apartment in town, leaving them to their own devices.

“And prove what, old woman?” I asked. “That in their 60’s they can be on their own? They would probably go wild and throw a rave complete with Geritol shooters and a slew of Milk of Magnesia pills, lying around the place. It would be so wild, someone would make it a reality show: Party til Dusk – because none of them can see to drive after dark.”

She pronounced me a smart-alecky heathen and told me all of us would be lost without her.

“You’re wrong,” I said. “We would manage just fine.”

Sure, we’ve managed. But there is a void.

A big, loud void of righteousness that will never be filled by a presence other than hers.

I sighed again before I spoke.

“They are alright, I guess. Mama misses her, of course, and you know Bobby has never been one to talk a whole lot.

Truth be told, I think they are a little bit lost without her there telling them what to do. Bobby is buying a bunch of lottery tickets and now he’s taking in every stray that shows up since she is not there to scream about it.”

Granny would have a fit about all the animals my uncle took in; when I lived there, we both nearly drove her crazy.

She informed us once we only worked to pay the vet and buy dog and cat food. She wasn’t far off, either.

It was like the underworld stray community knew Granny was gone and they started just coming on in whenever my uncle opened the door. I think he has a standing appointment at the vet’s office on Mondays now.

“You leave Bobby alone,” Renee said. “One day, that man will win the lottery. He will.”

He believed he would, too. And then there were no telling how many strays he would take in.

But I worried about them. They were geriatric orphans.

Even though they are adults, I wonder who is taking care of them.

Do they know what to do if one of them gets sick?

How do they know who to call about things like Granny did?

When something happened to the HVAC or the plumbing, Granny knew what to do. She took care of, well, everything.

When they were supposed to get some snow a few weeks ago, Mama told me she hoped they didn’t lose power.

“Maybe Bobby should go get some firewood from town, just in case,” she said.

“No,” I said. “Y’all do not need to be building a fire in that fireplace – do either of you know how to build a fire?”

She paused to consider.

“No. Mama always built the fire.”

Granny probably rubbed two sticks together, too, to start it. Or told it to ignite and it did.

The old gal had a way about her that if she told anything – even wood, dirt, or whatnot – to do something, it did it.

“Alright, then,” I said. “Y’all leave that fireplace alone. Y’all don’t need to be messing with fire. Neither one of you.”

“What if the power goes out?”

“It won’t,” I declared.

If Granny could declare things, I could too.

Mama wasn’t so sure. She didn’t like the thought of them being cold, she didn’t like the thought of them possibly being without power, and more than anything, she didn’t like the fact I was telling her what to do.

“Why are you acting so bossy about this?” she asked.

“Because,” I began.

How do I even explain it?

“Mama, I worry about y’all. Who is taking care of y’all? I should be there, or y’all here, so I can take care of you. Granny’s gone…and y’all are just…alone.”

“We’re fine,” Mama said softly. “Granny was almost 93. There wasn’t a lot left she could do. We can take care of ourselves.”

Yes, there was. There was plenty. Even in a wheelchair, she still struck an intimidating form.

“Mama, I know she was old. I know she couldn’t get around anymore. But I felt better knowing she was there. She made sure y’all were OK.”

Mama had felt better, too, even if the old gal was fussing – usually at Mama – all day long.

There was comfort in her ordering everyone around. They were assured everything was in order and everything was done.

“I mean, honestly, Mama, who tells y’all what to do now? Y’all need someone to tell y’all.”

Mama quietly agreed.

“Yes, in some ways we do,” she said. “Because it doesn’t matter how old we are, we always need our Mama.”

They shoot fat people, don’t they? (3/11/2015)

It must be open season on people who are overweight.

Last week, a lady named Katie Hopkins publically called Kelly Clarkson fat.

I had never heard of this Hopkins person before, but after Googling, I found out she is a British journalist whose claim to fame is making offensive comments about other celebrities.

One site called her a “professional troll,” and another hailed her the “Most Hated Woman in Britain” – titles earned by her comments like saying Kelly Clarkson must have ate her backup singers, and that with an 8-month old baby, that wasn’t baby weight but “carrot cake weight.”

Kelly handled the situation with her typical spunk, saying the reason the woman was so hateful was because she didn’t know Clarkson.

“I’m awesome!” Clarkson said in an interview, responding to the comments. “It doesn’t bother me. It’s a free world. Say what you will. I’ve just never cared what people think. It’s more if I’m happy and I’m confident and feeling good, that’s always been my thing. And more so now, since having a family-I don’t seek out any other acceptance.”

Her response was a lot classier than mine would have been.

When our looks are attacked, our typical response is to retaliate with something more vitriolic and hateful towards the accuser than what was slung at us.

Someone calls us fat, we sling back they are ugly.

The body-shaming doesn’t just apply to women, either.

A man, known as #DancingMan was made fun of for dancing.

Why? Because he was overweight.

He was having a good time, dancing, enjoying his life and some bullies made fun of him to the point he stopped.

Thankfully, a group of women saw it and are putting together a huge party so the man can come dance as much as he wants, free from shame.

It’s sad that the only progress we’ve made in the last 20 plus years is that fat-shaming now includes men.

My first exposure to it in the media was the episode of “Designing Women.”

“They Shoot Fat Women, Don’t They?,” when Suzanne went to her high school reunion and was mocked for being heavier than she was before.

She tells her sister, Julia, if you are fat, it’s like you don’t matter anymore, especially if you are a female. People are sympathetic towards everything else -unless you are fat, and then you are supposed to be ashamed.

I completely relate because after Granny died, I was depressed.

Horribly depressed – I never thought the old gal would die and when she did, none of us expected it.

We had at least two or three good fights left in us that needed to be had. But we didn’t.

And like Granny, I wasn’t going to talk about it or cry over it. No, I ate.

I ate stuff that I was severely allergic to, not supposed to have, and things that hurt me. But biscuits with butter and jelly reminded me of her – they weren’t as good as hers, but they reminded me of her.

The smell of them baking to a golden brown made me flash back to sitting in the kitchen with her, or her making biscuits on Sunday after church to go with her fried chicken.

I smeared my emotions with plenty of raspberry jelly and choked them down.

And immediately realized people treated me differently.

I was fluffy, a little bit chubby. I wasn’t as thin as I had been a year ago.

I felt horrible, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

People were judging me, and delighting, I am sure, in the fact I was a chubbykin.

I don’t want to go anywhere or see anyone – because I am that ashamed.

“People don’t care if you’ve gained weight or not. People don’t care about that. You’re being silly,” Lamar, my bone-thin cyclist husband will tell me.

No, I am not.

As long as there are people who think it’s OK to tweet, comment and bash about a person’s weight, people care.

Maybe care is not the right word.

Maybe it should be a word that doesn’t imply any sort of compassion, because that is not the motive.

I worked with a gorgeous woman once – she still is.

She was not skinny, but she never claimed to be and it didn’t matter.

She was larger than life, had one of the most loving hearts in the world, and was really, stunningly gorgeous with her blonde hair and huge brown eyes.

We were at work one day and a lady approached her and said: “Oh…girl. You’ve done and gone and gained all that weight back you lost. What were you thinking?”

My friend looked up and replied: “I may be fat but I can lose weight; you can’t lose ugly.”

Her response – while given in the heat of the moment – made me wonder.

Why do our looks have to have that influence, that control over us? Aren’t we more than our outer appearance?

What if, instead of seeing someone for their weight, the way they look, we saw their spirits and saw them for their contributions in the world? Wouldn’t that make the world a better place? And not just for women, but men as well.

If we stopped focusing on those petty, catty, superficial issues, I bet a lot of things would miraculously change, too.

queue here

Meltdown in the checkout lane (3/4/2015)

I sometimes think people have lost all sense of boundaries and personal decorum.

I’m not talking about selfies and technology driven issues, either.

I’m talking about when folks are in stores. Rudeness has become the standard on aisle four and in the deli.

I am not even talking about how people like to stop and hold conferences in the aisles at the store.

Or how they will bump into you with their buggy as they pass, with half an aisle to spare.

I am talking about when I am trying to unload my buggy and the person behind me feels like it will somehow speed up the process by tossing their stuff up there before I am finished.

Or they get really, really close to me. As in hover so close to me that I have to say, “Excuse me,” when I bump them to get my wallet out of my purse.

It makes me feel claustrophobic and nervous.

As an introvert, I feel very uncomfortable with a stranger having such close proximity to me.

As a human being, I also feel like it is the height of rudeness.

But people -most people, anyway-seem to have lost all sense of personal boundaries and proper public behavior.

Sadly, I was less shocked by seeing a girl walk in wearing a bikini once than I was by the man behind me that just saddled on up beside me to buy his pack of Marlboros while I was still handing my coupons to the cashier.

I shot the guy a sideways glance as if to say, “Back up, buddy,” but he didn’t seem to notice.

Another time, as I was in line, a man just appeared from nowhere and proceeded to cut in front of me in line. I actually called him out on it.

“You go ahead,” I said. “Whatever you are doing is evidently so much more important than what I have to do.”

It was urgent, after all, he had to load his card so he could save 10 cents on gas.

I get so frustrated and upset, I have gotten to the point I hate shopping of any kind.

Cole tries to be my buffer, but he is just a child.

In Aldi once, a man started placing his items up on the checkout belt while I was unloading.

The look on my face must have been horrific – I wanted to say something snarky and rude but my raisin’ wouldn’t allow it.

Evidently, my generation was the last to believe in having any kind of decorum.

Cole turned around until he made eye contact with the man’s wife, who tried to stop the man.

“I think that lady is still putting her stuff up there, honey,” she said.

He tossed a box of rice on the belt.

Cole grabbed it and handed it to the wife who finally made her husband realize he was tossing his items up there with mine.

When Cole turned back to me, he said my face was as red a pepper.

“I got this, Mama,” he said. “I won’t let them make you have a meltdown.”

Why can’t people take two seconds and realize they are not the only ones in the world and see how rude they are being.

If they aren’t all up on my backside, they are cutting in front of me. Cole wanted a sub sandwich at the deli one day. I had stood in line behind two people for about 15 minutes, when some rude lady approached and cut in front of me as the folks ahead of me moved away with their order.

Personally, I think the deli person should have known the lady was not next – I was – because I had been standing there so long.

Maybe I was wearing my cloak of invisibility that day. Or putting on a good imitation of a statue.

“Sometimes, I swear, I hate people,” I mumbled getting in the car.

Lamar didn’t say anything, because he knows I can turn on him like a feral cat if he says the wrong thing.

“You need to be my buffer,” I told him.

“You’re what?”

“My human buffer. You need to go in stores with me from now on – none of this sitting out here, napping. You need to go in there and make sure no one gets all up on me in the checkout and maybe help me run interference so people won’t cut in front of me.”

Lamar didn’t say a word -again, I can go feral cat.

“Maybe you need to speak up,” was Mama’s suggestion.

But in a world of road rage, it can be scary.

Even scarier, I am the type that takes and takes and takes and when I reach my limit, I am the scary one. I don’t want to do that. I would probably be escorted by police officers out of the store. Maybe wearing handcuffs.

After visiting Mama the other day, we stopped in Barnes & Noble.

As we went to checkout, I noticed the sign that said: “Please wait here until called by the next cashier.” What a lovely idea, I thought. A queue to give boundaries and parameters.

Some banks have the queue and even the ones that don’t, people have some cognizance it is not acceptable to get all up on someone while they are taking care of business.

Banks and bookstores apparently have a higher level of decorum, keeping the sales transaction sacred, away from rude, overzealous people.

Why can’t all the other stores have those signs or the little metal rails to get through?

But they don’t.

The rest of the world has just lost any and all civilization it once had.

And it all started at the grocery store.