Too Thrifty Chicks

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For Annie Mae Jones Jeffers

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You are hand kneaded dough that rises to become hot bread. Bread, that along with molasses is considered a meal. But I don’t like molasses, so I always just ate it plain. You are gravy and fried chicken. You are coffee that I am too young to drink. But you. You let me drink it anyway, and the taste for it is always with me even to this day.

You are summers spent barefoot in the sunshine. You are a garden tomato eaten raw, juicy with salt. You are a cut in half tire, turned seesaw. You are muscadine grapes and flowers that grow in controlled chaos. You are my love for rocking chairs and sitting porches. You are chocolate cake and maybe I have been craving the taste of chocolate because I knew this day was coming.

You are women gathered at the table. Gathered in the wonderland of your yard. Gathered long after dark and the lightening bugs have come out. Laughing. Loud and untamed. Happy tears of mirth, running down dark cheeks. And occasionally a little trickle of urine. You are a dip of snuff. Tucked expertly between teeth and lower lip. You are the master pincher. In a family full of men that you loved and gave life, you are the heartbeat at the center of the tree.

FullSizeRender 105When I was told that you had passed, my heart went straight into my throat and then took a free fall into my stomach. Given that you were in your 80s, your passing is not unexpected — should not be unexpected. But who can ever be prepared for death?

I remember very clearly the last time we really spoke. I was in town for A.J.’s wedding. I’d stopped by your house to change clothes.

“Who you,” you asked. “It’s me, Mommae. Keshia.” You looked at me. Uncertainty clouding your face. “Keshia?” “Yes, Mommae. Keshia.” We went through that line of questioning about three times. We did it again after I changed into my dress.

“That’s a pretty dress,” you said. “Who you?”

I am what you helped make me. I am every ounce of love that you poured into me and everyone you have ever come into contact with. I am the wind from rolled down windows on winding country roads. I am pallets on floors and fatback meat. I am wild plums and wild strawberries. I am one of the many seeds in the garden of your family. Thank you for the sunshine of your smile, the strength of your hugs and the nourishing water of your laughter. I honor you. I love you. Thank you for being my bonus grandmother.

 

 

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It’s A Dog’s Life: The Story of 1 Dog and 3 Humans

Just before the weather got too hot for, well, anything, we took a day trip to Shenandoah  with our good friend Keila and her dog, Nena. We all looked forward to the trip for different reasons: good weather, time to reflect, opportunity to get away from the city. We had a great time hiking (just a little…we were so tired), talking, and eating BBQ on the grass. But what captured our attention most was Nena. IMG_6644

Nena was THE happiest of us all. You don’t know the good life until you’ve seen a dog smile.

Between hanging her head out the car window and wandering off on her own to explore different things, she was so into her surroundings. So present. At first Keila kept her on a short leash (presumably to see how she would act on the trail), but the further we went, the more freedom she was given to roam.  And when she was tired or felt like she needed a nap, she took her rest.

Humans, with all our thoughts about, well, EVERY THING, can learn a lot from dogs.

Here’s are a few things we learned from Nena:

  • Be curious. Nena, let her senses lead her. Whatever she was smelling, seeing and hearing, she wanted to know what it was. She sought it out with boundless curiosity instead of cautious suspicion. Could she have gotten hurt? Possibly, but what’s life without a little risk? Examine the world before you with openness and curiosity.  Investigate whatever it is you’re interested in with the possibility that you will be pleasantly surprised. Do it now, whether you’re on a trail in the forest, or sitting in your living room.IMG_6628
  • Express your pleasure. If something pleases you, smile. Nena, sure did. She reminded us that it’s OK to be happy in the present moment and to feel a sense of well-being from even the simplest pleasures.
  • Show love and affection for your humans. Once Keila started letting Nena wander a little on her own, Nena always came back to show us some love, especially Keila. It reminded us that any time is a good time to show some love for the humans in your life, even when they don’t expect it.
  • Be present. When we stopped for an extended period of time Nena settled in for a little R & R — rest and relaxation that is. Even when she dozed off a little she was still aware of her surroundings. If she heard a new noise or felt a change in the atmosphere, her attention was immediate. Nena was completely present. She wasn’t worried about anything that wasn’t happening in the space that she was in.

Thanks Nena for your infinite wisdom.

— R&R

 


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On the Bookshelf: Tuesdays with Morrie

“Invest in the human family. Invest in people. Build a little community of those you love and who love you.” -Tuesdays with Morrie

I recently read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (if you’re interested in a summary of the book, you can check out the description on Goodreads or Amazon). With all that is going on in the world–the escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Russia beefing up military exercises near the Ukrainian border, and the US deporting children; and all that’s happening in my small part of the world–feeling excited about a new place but also like a fish out of water in some way, entering my first semester as an instructor at a new school, trying to get over my sadness that there’s no Trader Joe’s here–Morrie’s simple words felt like the antidote to everything. We know all of this, don’t we? We know that it’s important to invest in humanity. We know that community–real community–takes work and requires you to be pre sent and sometimes compromising. And we know that loving and being loved are more important than anything else, because everything else can fall under those categories. But sometimes we need reminders–maybe even life lines–to snap us back into the reality that we are breathing, thinking, acting human beings. If there is to be any positive change, if there has ever been positive change, I think it is because of what is summed up in those three sentences: invest. human. family. community. love. The book explores many topics, some of them touching, but this is what stood out to me the most.

Do I recommend the book? Eh. Maybe. Depends on what you’re looking for. I enjoy Mitch Albom’s writing style. I also really love the idea that something about him makes people comfortable enough to share really difficult things with him, which he turns into some beautiful writing. However, the book is about death. It’s sad sometimes. It’s philosophical. It doesn’t have much rising or falling action.  The book is about Morrie, but the experience of reading it is about you. The power of the story, rests almost solely on the reader’s willingness to be vulnerable with the topics covered. I don’t know if the book or the sentences quoted above would have had as much meaning to me if I had read it some other time. Maybe? Maybe something else would have stood out. I’m not sure. What I do know is that the simplicity gave me a little hope in a time when everything seems more complicated than it needs to be.

-Reese


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Farewell 5509

Today Team Too Thrifty handed over the keys to the place that has been our home, 5509 Holmes Run Parkway, to our property manager.

How bittersweet a moment it was.

The relinquishing of those keys marks the official start of our new journeys — Reese to Memphis and me, to parts yet unknown — and an ending of sorts to the journey we’ve been on over the last year and a half together.

But it seemed only right to pause and reflect on what 5509 means to us because it wasn’t just a house to us.  It was so much more.

5509 was the place where we slept most nights, often on our sectional couch after too much wine, so much laughter and not a few tears.20140630-184750-67670289.jpg

5509 was the place where we discovered our love for cooking and did our best James Brown impressions across the kitchen floor. It was the place where we often gathered our friends, but also examined the contents of our hearts. It’s the place where we created this blog, dreamed our biggest dreams so far, and created so many shared memories.

It was our home in every since of the word. But it is our physical home no more.

Today the lights are out at 5509, our beloved sectional has a new home and we are no longer the resident inhabitants of what we used to call home. We are in a grateful place of transition.

As we drove away, we gave thanks for the loving sadness that stains our hearts because we know that it comes from a place of knowing what it is like to have a physical home and to carry the memory of it — the peace of it — in our hearts.

We are forever grateful.

– R&R

 

 

 


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A Pie for You, Mama

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI loved picking blackberries when I was a kid, but not for the sake of loving it. I loved it because I knew that if my sisters and I picked enough, my grandmother would take those berries and make a pie. My goodness, I loved my grandma’s blackberry pie. I’d watch her roll out the dough, line the bottom of a 9×12 pan with dough, pour a layer of berries, add another layer of dough, and repeat it until the pan was full. Most times, I’d sit in the kitchen and wait, or I’d run next door to my house only to return about 30 minutes later to see if the pie was ready.

Today is my grandmother’s 81st birthday. She can no longer make blackberry pies or garden or fish or drive herself to church 3 or 4 times a week. She can’t do any of these things, because she can’t remember how to do them.

My grandmother taught me how to sew. She taught me how to bake a cake. She was the person who heard me spell my winning word when I qualified for the Scripps National Bee in 3rd grade. She took me fishing, picked me up from athletic practices, whooped my behind when I needed, and made me wear stockings to church even though IP1080648hated it. She showed me what grace looks like in action and reminded me that there’s never a need to raise your voice…and if you did, you often looked silly doing it (my sisters, cousins, and I always laughed at her for trying to yell at us). She was devoted to her church, but more than that, she was committed to the idea of loving thy neighbor as thyself. She is the one and only person I have called “mama” my entire life. She’s strong, a classic example of not succumbing to the woes of the world.

I cannot be in Texas today to celebrate her birthday. Even if I was, she wouldn’t know who I am. Instead, I celebrate her day by baking a blackberry pie (not as good as hers…no time to make dough from scratch), and committing to volunteer at least 20 hours over the next six weeks. What better way to celebrate the person who taught me the beauty of working with my hands and the joy of helping others?

image (4)Mama, today’s pie is for you. I frustrated you when you taught me how to sew. You often thought I talked to much. There were times when you felt like I was not always appreciative of all you did. But, I also know that you were proud of me and your other grands. I cannot go back and redo those awful stitch lines, or close my mouth instead of arguing, or show you more appreciation during the times you felt like you were undervalued. I do hope the pride you felt was enough to make the frustrations worth it.  What I can do is sow your legacy into the world and spread goodwill and justice wherever I go…and one day, if I have a tiny human, I will teach her that her great grandma was a gentle, loving reminder that the Universe’s love is spread through how we choose to treat people. Happy Birthday, Mama. I am so proud to be your legacy.