Brown Paper Packages

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taco picSo, Sean and I started our Saturday morning by walking down to Jo’s Coffee shop on South Congress as we often do.  We ordered our coffees and as I was feeling pretty hungry I ordered two Pappas, Egg and Cheese tacos to match Sean’s order.  We said hello to our new friend Nichol who was once again sporting her red silk kimono and joined her at the large community table to eat our breakfast.  After finishing my first taco, I decided I’d been overzealous in my ordering and wrapped up the remaining taco in a brown paper bag and shoved it down in my backpack to bring home to Al.

I read a little and did some writing warm-ups while Sean sketched various people from around the shop.  Jo’s has a different vibe on Saturdays.  The regulars are there, but there are more families and small children and impolite dogs who bark, bark, bark.  At first the energy is inspirational but eventually we feel the itch to move on and today we have errands to run anyway. So, we packed up our stuff and continued up the hill.

I wanted to make Mexican Wedding Cakes and forgot the vanilla last time I was at the grocery store so we headed to the Farm to Market store which is too expensive to go to on a regular basis but I was willing to splurge to save the time of dragging Al’s big truck out of the garage to go to the HEB.  I spent ten dollars on a bottle of organic vanilla and even the cashier double checked the outrageous price but I was being lazy and I paid for it.  The cashier asked if I wanted a bag. I considered just throwing the bottle in my purse but worried it might leak so I said yes and she wrapped the bottle in small brown paper sack.  I shoved the sack down in my purse not realizing that brown paper sacks would cause problems in my near future.

Sean needed to go to the bank so we walked further up the hill than usual.  Beyond the bank there is a middle school and some barber shops but the shops become more spread out and less appealing so the bank was to be our last stop before heading back to the apartment down the hill.  On our way to the bank, we approached an elderly man with a bushy gray beard in a wheelchair.  He had a cardboard sign in his lap and the words written in Sharpie marker said something about needing any kind of help anyone could offer.  I remembered my leftover taco and said hello to the man and his friend standing next to him.  I told him I didn’t have any cash, which I didn’t, but that I had a taco in my purse and would he like to have it.  He said he would, so I opened my purse and took out the brown paper sack and handed it to him.  We exchanged God Bless You with Have a Nice Day and Sean and I crossed the street to the bank.

As we left the bank, I noticed the man and his friend were gone.  I mentioned to Sean that this was the first time I had ever uttered the phrase, “I have a taco in my purse,” to anyone.  We laughed.

At home, I tidied up the kitchen and started chopping pecans for my cookie dough.  I followed the recipe until I got to the line that read, “Whip butter and sugar together and add vanilla.”  I went to my purse to retrieve the vanilla and dug around past the sunglasses and Kleenex and various pens and pencils. There was no brown bag.  A realization started to dawn and so I checked my backpack and there it was, wrapped in brown paper… the taco I thought I had given to the wheelchair bound man.  “Oh no!” I shouted to Sean with wide eyes while slapping both palms to my cheeks.  “I gave the vanilla to the homeless man!”  “What is he going to do with ten dollars’ worth of pure organic vanilla?” Then, I mimed tipping back a bottle and taking a drink and planted my face in my palm while Sean laughed.

All Around the Mulberry Bush

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Heart Shaped Mulberry Leaf

Heart Shaped Mulberry Leaf

Shane taught me to climb the old Mulberry tree behind Grandpa’s barn where Grandpa worked on his lawn mower and hung fish heads from nails as trophies of the summer.  Shane knelt down like a soldier about to be knighted and I used his thigh as a step stool to reach the lowest branch.  Our knees and elbows stung from brushing against the rough bark of the tree but it was worth it to taste those watery purple berries.  We turned our shirt tails inside-out to catch fruit from the branches above and the perfectly ripe berries dropped from the branches with just a gentle shake.

Visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a regular summer event.  It was a time when cousins from different school districts got to know one another again.  It was the richest place I knew even though they lived in a mobile home on rented land.  There were fruit trees everywhere, and a pond full of frogs.  We saw snakes and chickens and just down the road, a hog wallow brimming with salamanders and dragonflies.

Shane and I filled our shirt tails with berries and leaned back against the trunk of the tree on our respective branches to enjoy our plunder.  From our perch, we heard Grandma working in the garden pulling weeds.  She hollered at Roscoe, the beagle to, “quit that digging,” and though we couldn’t see her from behind the barn, we knew she was wearing her straw hat and picking worms from the tomato leaves with her glove-covered hands then pitching the bugs to the chickens.  This was a ritual we had witnessed before and we respected her diligence.  We stared at the clouds through the shady filter of green while savoring our snack with purple fingers and lips.  And then we heard her say it, under her breath, “Lord, I hate Mulberry trees.”  Shane and I stopped chewing our berries and stared at one another wide-eyed.  Shane spit a mulberry stem from between his teeth to the ground, a skill I had not yet acquired.  “Why does she hate Mulberry Trees?”  I whispered to Shane.  He was older than me by two years and so by default the wise one.  He stared back at me silently, as was his way, and then shrugged his shoulders.  He tossed a Mulberry up in the air and caught it on his tongue and the conversation was over.  It was a mystery.

Yesterday, I poured a bottle of vinegar over a tree stump that just keeps coming back in my garden.  A stubborn tree seed has taken hold in my garden’s fence row and though I cut it back each spring is now forcing the pickets to fall off my fence.  I read somewhere that vinegar would take care of it and figure it’s worth a try.  As I pour the acrid liquid over the exposed roots,  I whisper under my breath, “Uh, I hate mulberry trees.”  And just like that, the mystery is solved.

Mulberries

Mulberries

Read to Me

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kid booksI loved reading my kids bedtime stories.   We snuggled up in Jacob’s bed in his small teddy bear infested room or Sean’s blue nautical bed with Buzz Lightyear peeking over the edge of the toy box and read a story of either boy’s choosing every night.  Sometimes they picked one of my favorites and sometimes they picked a book with awkward sentences and repetitive dialog but I read whatever they chose.  Leaning back against the headboard, smelling their freshly shampoo’d little heads, I opened a book cover and Jake pointed at pictures on the page.  It’s one of those things that happen every night of their lives until it doesn’t.

I read Cyndy Szeckeres’s board book Puppy Too Small to Sean and Jacob more times than I can remember.  Each time they asked to hear my own story of how Sean was born too early and how small he was and how my college friend Sharyn had given us that book when Sean was born.  And, then they would ask me to read it again.

We read Tumble Bumble and Frog and Toad and then the books got bigger.  We read Because of Winn Dixie, and I cried.  We read all the Series of Unfortunate Events and somewhere along the way we started the Harry Potter Series.  Sean was a few years younger than Harry when we first began our Hogwarts adventure.  I mispronounced the character’s names and stumbled over the spells but all three of us loved the story.  By the time Harry was entering his fifth year at Hogwarts, Sean was reading it on his own but still joined us for out-loud reading at bedtime, though he sat at the foot of the bed now.  When the final book in the series was released, Jacob was ready to read on his own, too, so I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in my own bed, without moving my lips at all.  The bedtime story ritual was over before we had time to notice and today, I miss it terribly.

Last night, Jacob, who is now almost 18, asked me to run lines with him for a play he’ll be appearing in soon.  We sat on the couch and went through the script page after highlighted page making sure that he had his cues and was reciting the words as scripted.  The play is a musical and we reached the place where Jacob is required to sing a solo.  He started just talking through it then stopped and shook his head.

“No, I’ve got to sing it,” he said.

And so he did, and I cried.

“I’m never going to make it through this play,” I laughed with tears in my eyes.

We read through a scene he’d been struggling with, a heated dialog with another character with lots of interrupting and overlapping lines.  We read it over and over with Jacob’s voice taking on the timber of an agitated adult man.  I choked up.  I couldn’t read the lines.  I was so moved by the energy and passion he was putting into the practice.  I was moved that he was openly allowing me to be a part and a witness.  He laughed at me and asked, “Why are you crying?”

“I’m just so proud of you,” I said.

Tonight before going to bed, I knocked on Jacob’s bedroom door.

“Thanks for letting me read lines with you tonight, Buddy,” I said.  “It reminded me of our old bedtime stories and I miss that.”

“Me too,” he said.  “You were doing the voices and you didn’t even know it, just like you used to.”

“I used to do voices?” I asked.

“You did.  And you used to cry at the sad parts too.”

Read to your kids, people.  Read to them every day until you don’t.  And then read to them some more.

Back Here Again

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15 Bean Soup at Strange Brew Coffee House

The tension is there but it’s obscured by menial tasks and busyness.  I finally sit down after months and months of avoiding it and making excuses.  Months ago, I shut the door to my creative mind, the part that strings words together for no one but me.  I stacked boxes in front of that door, boxes full of dusty phrases like, “I can’t,”  “I need to focus elsewhere,” and “first I need to take care of these things…then I will write.”  It seems noble to deny what makes me happy to take care of everything else first.  In fact, I start to believe that I don’t even want to write, that it’s too much work and I don’t have time to get into my own head right now.

I can press a 25 pound kettle bell over my head with one hand but sometimes the weight of a pen seems like too much trouble.

I got past it today, for today.  I had to leave my house and go to my favorite coffee shop and let Toni make me soup, but I got past it.  After about 300 words I felt something crack in my chest.  Something opened up that had been locked for a very long time.  I struggled not to let tears flow because I was in a public place and I would look crazy sitting there with my laptop crying in my soup.  But that’s how it felt to write again after all this time.

Arrangements for Jana Thomas

If you were referred here while searching for information about Jana Thomas please know we are holding her family in our hearts.

As published by Carlisle-Branson Funeral Home

Obituary for Jana Thomas

Jana Thomas, 56, Martinsville, suddenly passed away early Sunday, October 7, 2012, in Methodist Hospital. She was born March 10, 1956, in Litchfield, Michigan, to Levi and Doris (Baldwin) Curey.

Jana worked for many years as a group representative for various insurance companies. She enjoyed vacationing on the beach, shopping, and sewing. Above all, she enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren and having her family close to her. Jana was a fun, loving person and will be deeply missed by all who knew her.

She was preceded in death by her father, Levi Curey.

Survivors include her husband, Dale Thomas of Martinsville, to whom she was united in marriage on August 24, 1974; daughters, Angel Boles (Brad) of Mooresville, Sara Dalton (Michael) of Franklin; brothers, Rick Curey (Susan) of Sevierville, TN, Michael Curey (Alice) of Johnson City, TN; grandchildren, Braeden Carter, Hannah Sutton, Carson Dalton, and Faith Boles.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m., Tuesday, October 16, 2012, in the Church at Mt. Gilead, 6019 E. State Rd. 144, Mooresville, with visitation there from 1 p.m. Memorial contributions may be made to the National Kidney Foundation. Funeral and cremation arrangements are being handled by Carlisle – Branson Funeral Service & Crematory, Mooresville. Visit www.carlislebranson.com to share a favorite memory or to sign the online guest registry.

http://www.carlislebranson.com/obituaries/Jana-Thomas/#/TributeWall

Community is about being there.

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Thank You.

After a fire at a student house in Bloomington Indiana, people came together and gave what they had to get these young men back on track during their first week of school.  Community is an amazing thing.

I received a text from my friend David yesterday.  He said things are going great and everyone gave them such nice stuff.   He also said thank you, so I’m passing it along.

Community Support Needed

This is my friend David.

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Last weekend David and three of his friends moved all their college stuff into a house in Bloomington Indiana to start the fall semester at IU.  Three days before the first day of class (today), their house caught fire resulting in this:

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Thanks to some brave firefighters and the grace of God, all the young men are okay.  But, here they are on the first day of school with no furniture, bath towels, kitchen items, books, or school supplies.  They’ve found another house to stay in but things are very sparse.  It you have something you’d like to donate to help these boys, please contact me at jyager@yagerandsons.com.  Thanks.

A bug’s life.

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Fennel frond

Ants on sunflower
Kale worm

Yes.  I am sharing my kale with worms.

Central Indiana is having a terrible drought and a stint of above 100 degree weather.  Our well has faithfully provided us with water, a true test to its depth.  We are blessed.

I’ve noticed how the wild animals in our yard are being resourceful.  I saw a female cardinal sticking her beak deep inside the water sprinkler in our garden to glean a tiny drop that had yet to evaporate.  I notice butterflies flock to flowers I have recently watered to drink from the drops still hanging on leaves and petals.  My friend has watched squirrels steal green tomatoes from her garden, I assume, for the moisture they contain.  Thirst is a common denominator of late.

So, I’m sharing my kale with worms.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)

To hear a bird song

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I’ve been watching a couple of Eastern Bluebirds in my yard since spring.  Against the backdrop of my neighbor’s barn, they’ve built their home inside a rustic gray bird house nailed against an ancient power pole.  I watched as they worked days and days on end bringing back scraps of bark and twigs and string.  I witnessed their war with a Mockingbird who insisted he was moving in too.  The smaller blue birds won through tenacity alone.  I waited patiently hoping to see evidence of a new family for the two.  The multitude of bugs they carried in through the perfectly sized hole in the front of their house was surely for feeding chicks.  I watched and waited content in the cool mornings to sit and listen to the Bluebirds and their hundred bird choir fill the morning with song.

My folks came for a visit late last spring and we sat on the porch as usual drinking our coffee and watching the Bluebirds.  I asked my dad how many birds he thought were singing at once and he replied, “Hundreds.”  My mom looked up from her phone and asked, “You can hear birds singing?”  My heart sank.  Hundreds of birds were filling the morning air with sound and my mom couldn’t hear a single one.  We had known for some time that Mom was struggling with her hearing.  There were misunderstandings and requests for repetition of phrases which she would repeat back incorrectly and we would rephrase thinking she didn’t understand.  But it was shocking to realize that she was missing something as significant to me as bird song.  She was living in a different world than me, one with no bird sounds and it made me sad.  She promised to look into a hearing aid as soon as she returned home.

The Bluebirds showed up less and less as summer turned hot and dry.  Their baby birds never revealed themselves while I was on watch.  Dad had his hip replaced and Mom had her final surgery after fighting cancer for years and surviving.  Grandma turned 90 while the whole town showed up to celebrate and Mom got a hearing aid.

Mom and Dad came back for a visit over the fourth of July and the Bluebirds returned too.  We sat on the porch together again, though the morning breeze was much hotter, and watched as the Bluebirds repaired their nest.  In and out of that little hole they came and went and we pondered a second batch of chicks.

It’s amazing the things we take for granted.  To know I can sit on the same porch with my mom and have such an entirely different experience in the same moment.  My world full of song, her’s nearly silent.  Mom feels good.  She’s happy now, and she can hear the birds sing.

“Grant that we may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.”           ~ St. Francis of Assisi

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