Pieces

How do you say goodbye to the person who shapes so much of who are? That is what I have to do.

In many ways it has been a long goodbye, drawn out by time and forgotten memories. My nanna had changed so much in the last ten years–years marked with unspeakable losses and seismic shifts. She lost a grandson, a son, her husband, and a loving son-in-law. She sold and moved from the home she made with Grandaddy. And as all of this happened, little pieces of her drifted away. Her memories lost in a cloud of mini strokes (her spells she called them) until a major one finally claimed her.

Max keeps praying to Nanna every day. “Nanna, I hope you have a good life in heaven. I hope you are happy.” His father chuckles at his innocence while I tell Max that he can talk to Nanna whenever he wants.

This is the truth I tell him. The ones we lose are with us in pieces. For me, Nanna is with me in gestures and actions pieced in my everyday life.

Every time I open a book, Nanna is with me. After all she is the one who made me love them. Not because she herself was a great lover of reading (though she read her Bible every day), she would drive my brother and me to Kemp Public Library every week in the summer to check out books. It was there that I checked out and read some of my favorite books–The Velveteen Rabbit, Little Women, The Hobbit.

Last night I wound the hanks of alpaca yarn to knit a sweater for Madeleine. As I wound the yarn into lilac balls, I could see Nanna, yarn piled in her lap, with her crochet hook an fast fingers working on an afghan, hat, or scarf for someone she loved. While I never enjoyed crocheting even after she taught me, her love of yarn led me to learn to knit. Like her, I almost never knit something for myself.

My nanna was the consummate hostess. Every Sunday she made a large dinner spread. She set the table with a lovely white cotton tablecloth trimmed with flowers. These dinners were not necessarily a special occasion, but she made them that way. They were not just for our family. Each week new faces would join the table–sometimes the pastor and his family, sometimes aunts, uncles, cousins, and later my friends–they loved her lasagna. Her home was a gathering place for all. When I went to college, I took that with me. I knew food brought people together, so I used it to connect with those around me. When I was lonely or wanted to know people better, I invited them over for dinner. My closest friendships forged with bread and wine.

Before she passed, I asked her, “Nanna, do you remember how we used to make candy together?” She taught me how to watch the temperature by plopping the sugary mixture into cool water. She would stir, and I would add ingredients. Later, I would do the vigorous stirring while she added the ingredients until finally I would have to make it on my own. When I asked her, she couldn’t respond. Her speech already lost to the blockage in her brain. She squeezed my hand.

All these pieces–parts of me–remain even after a goodbye like the sweet lingering of fragrance of lilies from fresh cut flowers. Fudge, Sunday dinner, lasagna, rainbow sherbet, “Brookies”, crochet, hymns, singing, cards, libraries, poems, crosswords, doodles. These are the pieces left even after someone is gone.

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Shakespeare on Joy: A Week of Joy #4

It’s no secret that I love my job.  I especially love teaching Shakespeare.  Most of my teaching career, I have only taught Shakespeare once per year and in most cases Romeo and Juliet.  However working at a performing arts school affords me with plenty of opportunity to promote the Bard.  This year I have been given a Shakespeare class.  I also coordinate our efforts and involvement in the Parker Shakespeare Festival.  Last year I had my doubts about middle schoolers loving my man Will, but I was wrong.  We increased student interest in studying more of Shakespeare’s work after our successes in the festival.

Joy Choice #4: There’s always time for Shakespeare and more Shakespeare and more Shakespeare.

I had so much work and so many projects to spend time on today.  I needed my plan time to send emails, but instead, I worked on Shakespeare scenes with students.  We worked on scenes from Antony and Cleopatra, Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.   When it came time to return to class, I was so centered and in high spirits. It made me so happy, and the projects and work I had to do—they kept.  Sometimes you just have to take a moment to do what you love and share it with a few others.

“I wish you all the joy that you can wish” (The Merchant of Venice)

 

What joy did you share with others today?

Bubbles and Joy: A Week of Joy

When I went to Children’s Church, we used to sing a song…”It’s bubblin’, it’s bubblin’, it’s bubblin’ in my soul.” I loved it.  There’s just something about bubbles.  I like blowing bubbles with my kids in the pool, blowing giant bubbles at the science museum, drinking my bubbles in either champagne or Diet Coke, eating the bubbly part of the pizza crust.  I love bubbles.

I especially love bubble baths. (Joy Choice #4)  I took a long one tonight.  #ichoosejoy

The Joy in Stories: A Week of Joy #3

I have a busy schedule for the next few months.  I could document it here, but I will spare you the details.  This is common practice for me.  I like to be busy.  A good friend of mine often reminds me, “Busy people do.”  And I certainly do.

I rarely take time to actually watch a television show in real time.  The year before Madeleine was born, my husband gifted me with TIVO, and we have never stopped storing an exorbitant amount of television in its cache. (Seriously, we will never be able to watch it all.)  Lately I’ve been catching up on shows using subscription services like Netflix and Hulu, but tonight I watched a show while it was on–commercials and all.

Joy Choice #3:  I stopped to watch This Is Us.  I never do this.  I catch up on weekends and ball my eyes out while my husband occupies himself with football.  Not tonight.  Tonight I made time, set aside my work, and watched the entire program through bleary eyes while it was broadcast.  (Oh Big Three, why do you do this to me?!?).  Bleary eyes?  How does this connect with joy?  It’s this simple:

Stories bring me joy.

Stories are exactly why I spend my days doing what I do. It’s why I read.  It’s why I teach Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, Harper Lee.  It’s why I passionately share these stories with my students. It’s why I spend ten minutes a day listening to my students share some of theirs. It’s why I ask my children to recount their days over dinner, and it’s why I’m writing this tonight before turning in, snuggled under cotton sheets  with my Kindle in my hands.  I love stories.  It brings me such happiness to watch/listen/read stories.  There’s such joy in every one.

#ichoosejoy

Joy in the Morning…a Monday Morning: A Week of Joy

Joy Choice # 2: Today was our first day back at school after a restful and relaxing break. None of us were wanting to lift our heavy feet into the car to make the trip to school. My mind was filled with all the “I have to’s” that needed completion before the first bell. Max and Madeleine were still sleepy. Their heads resting on their chests and bobbing slightly when we hit a slight bump. It was going to be a hard day, and it was Monday. I knew that my “joy choice” would set the tone for the entire day. So what was it?
 
I turned up the radio. It woke the kids up. Sirius XM was playing a Jimmy Eat World song. It was “Sweetness,” and while I am not a Jimmy Eat World fan, I have loved this song since it debuted in 2001. (Jedidiah and I were engaged). I couldn’t tell you the words really. I just know the “Are you listening? Whoaoaoaoao” part….and my kids do too. (Apparently we listen to this song more than I am aware?) So instead of dwelling on the “have to’s” I decided to make the choice to play air guitar at the red light. Max started giggling. Madeleine raised her hands up and started strumming as hard as she could. Max soon followed nodding his head up and down, laughing all the while. We sang all the “whoas” at the top of our lungs and played our most glorious air guitar. Immediately our mood changed. The day suddenly felt lighter and brighter just after some emo-rock and some righteous air guitar.
So grab your air guitar and sing those “Whoa’s” as loud as possible….”Are you listening?”

I Choose Joy: A Week of Joy

In early December, my children and I were driving home from a late night rehearsal in Littleton. When I say Littleton, I mean as-far-away-as-one-can-get-from-Parker-Littleton. We were all in horrid moods. Madeleine and Max were fighting, and I was tired of listening to whiny children after a day of teaching.
“Stop!” I yelled. Their voices quieted immediately. “Guys, we’re being ridiculous. We all need to stop. Let’s choose joy instead.”
Max, who was particularly tired from late night tech week rehearsals, continued to whine, so I asked Madeleine, “What did you do to choose joy today?”
She talked of playing her cello in orchestra and dancing in musical theatre. Immediately her stern face gave way to a bright, beaming smile.
“What about you, Max?” He paused. “Well, today…”
Frankly, I don’t remember what he said, but that’s not what is important. Every day since then, I have asked my children, “How did you choose joy today?”  The love telling me about what makes them truly happy, and it brings me so much pleasure to hear them share their joy.
This is a challenge for myself too. I tend to get wrapped up in what needs to be done and what hangs looming over my head. Instead, I need to stop and choose to do or focus on what gives me joy.  I’m tired of not living the joy-filled life that I want.
 
This is a really long introduction to say that every day this week, I will be posting what I have done to choose joy.
 
Joy Choice #1: Today I finished the first sock of a pretty pair.  Knitting brings me happiness.  I love the feel of fine sock yarn between my fingers.  I like the way the loops join row-by-row interlocking around each other like mini fingers. I love a finished project–when all those minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc. of work finally come together into something that I hope will bring someone else happiness.  The same kind of happiness is brought me to make it.
 
How did you choose joy today?