Front Porch Lemonade

285 East or 285 West

Whew, what a busy but fun week I had last week. Okay, a bit of stress was thrown in there too . . . just so it was complete.
Oskar Myer (our white cocker spaniel) tore his ACL completely in two, so he had surgery last Tuesday. The surgery went well, and he came home on Wednesday to begin home rehabilitation. It was difficult for me. We had to get Oskar to do range-of-motion exercises three times a day for ten minutes. I could see that it hurt him by the way he rapidly winked his eyes when I bent his knee to a certain spot. After it was over, my husband Mike took him to the living room and put ice on his knee for a bit while I stayed in the bathroom and cried. I laugh now, but it reminded me so much of being a mom and having to care for children. When they hurt, I hurt.
Wednesday night I met a former co-worker for dinner at Crown Plaza just inside the perimeter. At least I believe it was inside the perimeter (remember how I am compass-challenged). Dinner was wonderful, we ate at the Cheesecake Factory, and it was great catching up on our lives, as well as what was happening with former co-workers that she is still in contact with. Since she had to be up early to work a trade show, we said good night around 9:30, and I began my journey home. Needless to say, I got lost going home. But this time I SWEAR it wasn’t me . . . I don’t think. See, here is the thing. The directions I used to get there said to take 400 to 285 West, to exit 29. Followed them exactly, and boom, I was there. Now, here is where I got a little turned around apparently because . . . no laughing . . . I was thinking logically: if you take 285 West to get somewhere, shouldn’t you take 285 East to return home? Well that is what I thought too! But NOPE . . . it didn’t work out. The next exit number was in the 30s not the 20s like it should have been going, so I knew something was not right in Atlanta, or La Vista, or Dunwoody, or where ever the heck I was. I saw the sign for 85 and thought, “Okay, if I can get to Atlanta, I can get home.” So, I take the exit for 85. Guess what? Yep—it was the “wrong” 85 exit. I was headed towards Greensboro, not Atlanta. “Great, just great,” I thought. So I took the first exit I found, turned around and got on 85 “whichever”—I can’t tell you for sure . . . because by now I was so turned around, I had no idea. HOWEVER, I did see the exit for 285, so I calmly exited . . . only—you guessed it—I took the dang 285 East again.
By this time it is at least forty-five minutes since I had left the restaurant, and I was still not heading in the direction of home. I took a deep breath, mumbled, “Yippie, another dang adventure,” under my breath, took another exit, and finally got on 285 West. I passed the exit for 85, and held my breath to see if the exit sign numbers were increasing or decreasing. Sure enough, they were decreasing. I let out a very loud clap and squeal, even waved at exit 29 as I passed it. Two and a half hours later, I pulled into my driveway, climbed into bed, and laughed out loud as I tried to figure out how any could possibly be as turned around as I had been. Has this happened to anyone else but me? Saturday, I participated in my second book signing at Yummy Yogurt Den in Cumming. Believe it or not, I drove there, set up, had an awesome day people-watching, laughing with the Gal Pals, who made another trip “north” to support Front Porch Lemonade and me, and even sold a few copies. One was to some friends I graduated high school with who made a special trip up to see me and buy a copy. Even my beloved editor and publisher, Obi Jan, came by to say “hi” and show her support to all of the authors she works with. The day was great, the rain held off, and I drove home without once having to get on 285.
Oskar has done very well through all of this. His stitches come out on Saturday. He is putting more and more pressure on his leg, and his eyes don’t blink as much with each set of exercises.
Yes, indeed, it was a fun, busy and stressful week filled with love, laughter, and tears . . . but then that’s just another chapter in the story that is my life . . . and yours too probably. Or am I really that strange?

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A few days ago while I was standing at the cantaloupe bin pretending to know how to pick out a ripe cantaloupe, an older gentleman passed by me. I smiled at him and watched as he headed over to the bagged lettuce section. Then I caught the smell of his aftershave, and for a moment, my mind traveled back in time to a chilly fall Saturday morning spent up at Nannie and Granddaddy’s house in Dalton, GA.
Although they lived in the country, the only farm animals that they had were a pony, a stray dog or two, and a few chickens. My favorite thing to do when we were up at their house was to get up early with Granddaddy and go out to help him take care of the animals. That and drink his very special coffee, which consisted of a little coffee, a little more cream, and a whole lot of sugar.
After coffee, we got ready and headed down the basement steps to tend to the animals. We had reached the last step when I realized I had forgotten a coat, and it was nippy in the early dawn light. Granddaddy handed me one of his jackets along with a flashlight, opened the door, and out we went. I shined the flashlight on the ground and almost ran to keep up with his long strides. We reached the barn and Granddaddy headed over to the feed barrels. I stood and watched as he reached in the barrel. A cool breeze blew through the barn and I pulled Granddaddy’s huge jacket closer around me. As my arms crossed, I lifted my left arm up and brought it closer to my cold nose. He turned around to hand me the full feed bucket and stared at the only thing visible on my face: my eyes. My nose and mouth by then were buried in the crook of my arm right at the elbow of his jacket. I remember Granddaddy wrinkling his forehead and asking, “What in the world are you doing now, Judi-Baby,” for it seems I was always exploring in the barn.
Without lowering my arm, I inhaled deeply once again breathing in the familiar scent of his aftershave and gave him a muffled reply, “I’m smelling you.”
“Ohhhh, Judi-Baby,” Granddaddy laughed, shook his head, and extended his hand, waiting on me to take the chicken feed. I lowered my arm and took the bucket, a huge grin on my face. We finished tending to the animals and headed back towards the house. We had taken just a few steps when Granddaddy stopped and scooped me up. I wrapped my arms around him and laid my head on his shoulder. I always felt safe and secure when I was with my Granddaddy.
Now many years later, as I am about to go through the two most difficult months of each and every year, out of the blue—there in the grocery store—the familiar smell of Granddaddy’s aftershave filled my nostrils, and I once again was comforted.
Isn’t it funny how things like that seem to work? Just when we think we stand alone amidst our life’s burdens, our hearts slap us around a little bit and remind us of our blessings—like the blessing of memories, mementos, and smiles. Oh, and I passed that same gentleman three different times in the grocery store that day. Each time we passed, I would stop, close my eyes, and secretly inhale.

Abby-ism

Like Miss Abby always says, “Everyone has two sets of eyes. One set that is in your head and one set that is in your heart.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, Chris and Tiffany participated in one of their friend’s wedding so Mike and I had the pleasure of having our grand-dogs spend the weekend with us.

In our house we had four dogs. Needless to say I stayed busy as well as laughed almost the entire time. It was so much fun to watch these dogs enjoy life as well as the beautiful weather. I also learned from them. Each dog had their own personality and showed their emotions not only on their face but through their body language as well. They also individually chose whether to do their own thing or play together as a group. But with all of these personalities running and playing and working not once did they growl or snap at one another. Silently it was understood amongst them the pecking order.

Oskar (Cocker Spaniel) might be small but he was in charge. He made that clear from the get go and the other dogs never challenged him. He indeed was the leader of the pack in the fact that if he barked and took off running through the back yard all of the others followed suit. But if one of the others barked and he didn’t feel there needed to be any barking done he simply walked up to that dog and gave them a certain look where silence followed.

Romeo (Australian Shepherd mix) meandered through the back yard only barking and running if Oskar gave the order to. Otherwise he did his own thing, finding shade and digging himself a hole to lie in and feel the coolness of the earth on his belly.

Gracie (Cocker Spaniel) is best described as a diva dog. She would run outside onto the back deck when the others followed Oskar through the back yard but getting her paws dirty was something she could not be bothered with. She instead chose to stay inside in the comfort of her crate, venturing out occasionally to the back deck to let us all know she was bored and we should come inside to give her a treat of some kind.

Wynona or Winnie or Pooh Bear – she answers to any of them (Boxer) is the youngest. She kept me on my toes constantly needing to be in the middle of everything. Her energy was boundless and her way of looking at things was out and out hilarious. She loves to chase shadows, bugs, whether crawling or flying and anything else that might look like it would be fun to chase. She would run from the outside to the inside grab a squeaky stuffed toy in her mouth and bolt around the living room and kitchen a couple of times the toy squeaking with each step she took, then she would drop the toy, leaving it to lie in the middle of the floor and bolt back outside for another fun adventure.

Watching each of these dogs and their individual personalities I learned the following:
•Size isn’t important. With self-confidence comes authority.
•Life isn’t always about the rat race. Sometimes you just need to stroll around and then find a cool shady spot to rest your weary bones.
•Just because everyone else is following someone doesn’t mean you can’t beat to your own drum. There is nothing wrong with curling up on a soft pillow in the comfort of your own bed.
•It is okay to search for adventures. Chasing dreams is fun but if you don’t catch one that doesn’t mean another won’t come along soon. You don’t always need a reason to simply play. Sometimes the fun is just in the sound of the squeaky toy.

Happy Mother’s Day

I just hung up the phone after talking to my son, Chris. By the end of the conversation, I was once again laughing. He has that affect on me.
Recently I found out that a friend from years ago lost her child, and because I know what she is going through, I wanted to spend time with her on Mother’s Day. At the same time, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to spend time with my son, so I called him to talk about our options.
He assured me that he didn’t mind if I went to visit my friend. He even volunteered to go visit her with me. I will admit his selflessness brought tears to my eyes. He is a great young man.
As I was blinking back tears and trying to hold my voice even, once again thinking how lucky I was to have him in my life, he switched gears on me.
A completely random discussion about moonlight began. He told me that since moonlight is actually reflected sunlight, it should really be called sunlight, and I realized now was my chance to lovingly aggravate him by telling him that it would be called moonlight reflection. He didn’t bite he just said, “Nope, reflected sunlight.”
Then he switched gears again returning to our possible plans on Mother’s Day. Matter-of-factly in his good humored way, he reminded me that every day except this Sunday is Chris’s Day, but would graciously step aside for the one day that could be about me: Mother’s Day. That got me to laughing. And I was reminded how good it feels to laugh. (And though I know he was teasing . . . in my heart, I completely agreed.)Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me. For the first few years after losing Jeremy, my oldest son, I cried all the time, struggling to just get through the day.
As time has passed, I have learned to laugh again, and it is my son, my family, and my friends that help me find the giggles. If you are a mom, I don’t need to tell you that motherhood is the most difficult job you will ever have. You will lose sleep. You will worry constantly. And there might be times when you show up to a business meeting with spit up on your suit. But it is also the most rewarding job. What other career offers free macaroni necklaces made out of love? Or watch your children sleeping peacefully without a care in the world, or cheer like a wild woman as they accomplish another milestone in their lives, or wipe tears of raw emotion from your eye as they say “I do.”
Whether you are a new mom or you have been doing this for a while, hold on to your memories, cherish each day you are given to spend with your children, and never, ever, take tomorrow for granted.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful mothers!

Heading North

To say I am directionally challenged would not be a true statement. For I can follow directions and if I drive to a location once, I can almost always find my way back there again. I think the correct term would be compass challenged. I don’t know why but I can’t distinguish north from south, east or west. I am not sure when this thought came into my head but the direction that I am facing (notice I said “I”) is always North. Needless to say when my children were little and we set out to drive to an unfamiliar location, I got us lost, on more than one occasion. We always ended up reaching our point of destination but it took a bit longer than anticipated. So, when my children asked for the umpteenth time, “Where exactly are we, Mom?” I would simply reply, “We’re on another adventure.” They would then sit back in their seats with a loud, “OH,” because they knew we were once again off course.
Such has been the case with my life’s journey. In 2001, I was a full time wife, mom and student. I was on a road to earn a degree in Early Childhood Education. Then, our oldest child was killed in a car accident. Suddenly my road veered very off course and I wandered around for years heading in this direction only to be redirected down another road. I wrote a Southern fiction manuscript, but put it on hold when I went to work as a manager for a showroom at AmericasMart in Atlanta, GA. After the showroom closed I did the administrative work for a consulting company.
It wasn’t until January 2012, that the first rough draft of my manuscript came back into play. I received an email announcing an upcoming writing workshop. Intrigued and feeling led to attend, I did. Once again my path changed direction. In October of 2012, my days and hours were cut at the consulting company so much that I decided for my own sanity’s sake to quit the company. I never once imagined that I would end up here or that within a short period of time my first book will be published. For the first time in a very long time I feel as if I am heading in the right direction.
I now realize the story that was inside of me and needed to be written was the path that God wanted me to take all along. He knew I would eventually find my destination but I had to drive up and down the roads of grief until I reached a place in my life with gratitude and thanksgiving. Looking back I can see that now. He felt that I needed to go on another adventure. Or was I heading north the entire time?

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