Remember that scene in Castaway?

Do you remember that scene in Castaway when Tom Hanks finally, painfully sparked a fire and it changed everything about his relationship with the island and he danced all around yelling to nobody in particular just for the sheer joy of it? "I! I made fire! Me! I! Fiiiirrrre!" All while banging his chest and shouting to the heavens? 

 http://www.imdb.com/media/rm892374528/tt0162222?ref_=tt_pv_md_1

http://www.imdb.com/media/rm892374528/tt0162222?ref_=tt_pv_md_1

Well, I just did that (or I had just done that when I started this blog post). But not for fire.

See, I had been in a battle of epic proportions with a broken toilet that whole miserable week. It was an exceptionally crazy week, with a hundred more things on my plate than I actually could accomplish, way too many non-negotiables colliding, and at that moment The Captain was away in Honduras doing amazing things. Part of his crazy wonderful new job is to travel a bit, help poor kids get sponsored, and show people the reality of how well the sponsorship program works in each country. It's a super crazy cool opportunity and aligns so perfectly with our family's desire to help kids in crisis and to help impoverished families remain intact. Obviously adoption is a big part of our life and our passion, but we believe that poverty should never be the reason a child is relinquished for adoption. 

So when he is away in whatever state or continent doing these amazing things, I try my very hardest to keep him from worrying about or being distracted by all the inevitable crazy random stuff that just tends to happen here when a parent is out of town. Say, like, when Child 3 has basically been pitching fits in all her waking hours for a solid four days...or, when the A/C goes out in my car and the Wilson ladies have been roasting due to the sun's decision to randomly crank that heat up...or, when all three children wake up crying/gagging/or complaining of some ailment when I have an especially important day at work...or when we've had to make not one but two office visits to the pediatrician in a 3-day span, etc. These things and more can and will happen every single time one of us is away. So while HIS part is to go and do amazing things there, MY part is to keep it all together here and that's just how it works. 

Back to the toilet. 

The toilet picked a fight with the wrong lady that week. I don't mean to overwhelm you people with my technical toiletry jargon, but the little strappy thing that connects to the push-down thing and lifts up the big round flapper thing at the bottom to let all the water out? Well, that little strappy thing broke. I rigged it a few times by pushing the strappy thing through the arm thing, but it wouldn't hold. Too short. Then for the next day I just pulled it up manually every time someone used that toilet, but that whole dance got old real fast. By Wednesday I would have paid you $500 for a whole new toilet if that's what you said I needed. 

But on THURSDAY, I went to Lowe's. And I found the plumbing aisle (Lowe's has the best signage, y'all, they really do). And I studied those bins until I found a new piece that had the same strappy thing that was flying all over the inside of my turlet like a dancing windsock at a used car lot. And I gave them my $4, and I drove straight home and I showed that toilet who was boss. I turned off the water, drained the tank, took out the old strappy/flapper thing, and installed the new and improved (and flaming red, which was kind of like cool new turlet bling since all its other innards are white) strappy flapper thing. I turned the water back on, refilled the tank, and flushed that toilet over and over and over just so it would know who was the boss of it. 

It was undoubtedly one of the proudest moments of my adult life. I won. I! I fixed the turlet! Turletttt!!!

 http://castlerockhomestead.com/2016/02/16/daily-life-22-final-final-candle-tests/ 

http://castlerockhomestead.com/2016/02/16/daily-life-22-final-final-candle-tests/ 

I felt like Rosie the Riveter. This won't be the last of our random home emergencies that pop up at the worst moments, but winning that battle gave me a little reassurance that we can do this. 

This all might seem very silly to you smart people who can fix a turlet flapper strappy thing in your sleep, but it was so nice for me, in the thick of such an endlessly challenging week, to figure a hard thing out. It felt so good to whoop a problem with nothing but tenacity and my $4 fire-engine red toilet jewelry. 

Harper Lee

Harper Lee died yesterday. Nearly 90 years old, she passed away quietly in her sleep.

harperlee

The wave of sadness that swept over the world was precedented. This is what we do. We love our artists, don't we? We idolize them, we buy and promote and share their music or books or tickets, and then we claim them as part of our own identity. We love and cherish these artists because of what they give to us. We love them not because of who they are (for it is rare that we commoners should ever truly know the person behind the artist's mask) but because of how they make us feel. We love our artists, but we love them selfishly, and I think perhaps that is one of the things that drove Harper Lee crazy about her fame. People loved Harper Lee for what she gave the world in To Kill a Mockingbird. They did not love Harper Lee for who she was, and it was her aim to convince the world that they could never and would never truly know her. She never wanted to pretend otherwise, and there's refreshing honesty in that.

The lengths Harper Lee went to in order to protect her personal work and privacy are understandable and even admirable. I admire Lee because of her bravery in writing Mockingbird to a world that could have rejected it. I admire her courage in spending the rest of her life voraciously defending her rights to her book. I understood why she never published again, until Go Set a Watchman came out last year, but I'll never believe that she stopped writing. Writers write. It's what writers do. She could never have turned off that switch created inside of her to craft sentences and form thoughts, and then to let those things out in some way. She may have journaled, or she may have written a series of short stories or other novels. Maybe she wrote on napkins and threw them away every day. Or, you never know...she could have had a whole pile of papers she threw in a fire recently, anticipating her death. This is Harper Lee we're talking about. Whatever she wrote, I'm as equally expectant for the entirety of her work to be published posthumously as I am for her family to continue to keep her writings secret.

Regardless of what may or may not come next from the pen of Harper Lee, we will always have her Mockingbird. And access to that novel will explode in the next generations because, assuming copyright laws remain consistent, To Kill a Mockingbird is only about 40 years away from being considered part of the public domain.

Other than her One Great Novel, which truly changed many readers' lives, Harper Lee will go down in history as a standout female author in the 19th century for one reason: No one was the boss of her. Rather than being pushed around and pressured to do even one thing that she wasn't comfortable doing, she found her two feet and she stood firmly on them. Unwavering, Harper Lee spent her life being exactly where she wanted to be and doing exactly what she wanted to do. She had gotten more out of her writing life than she likely had ever wanted or even considered possible, and despite the protests of many, she was found mentally stable and competent until the end of her days. Harper Lee lived a long, good life.

And now, what's next? Now, we wait.

The thing about mothers who write

The heavy little head rests against my arm, sweaty thickness pressed between her face and my elbow. Her hair sticks to my upper arm as I try to lean away enough for my fingers to find the right letters. It's well past bedtime, but an odd nighttime round of crazy cat vs. noisy toy drove her into a fit of the I Need You's. 

the thing about mothers who write

And I'm sitting here really trying this write every day thing, not because I have much to say, just because the voice of every author I respect is synonymous in this. Write every day, that's what they say. No matter what, find your time. Write every day.

Only, the thing about mothers who write is that we just simply cannot write every day. Yes, we all have the same 24 hours, but where do we put our working hours, our meditative/prayer/Scripture study hours, our self-care/exercise hours, our meal prep hours, our family time hours, our service to others hours. Where do we put our writing hours?

I haven't found mine.

The thing about mothers who write is that we - as mothers and as writers - are wired to notice things, things that maybe other people don't notice. And though that is a gift, it also feels like an ironic little curse because we're so covered up with the things to notice, the living of life with these wondrous little beings, that we hardly have time to actually write them out.

We get to think it, we just don't always get to tell anyone about it. Or not the way we originally thought it, thanks to the adorable little distractions in our life.

The thing about mothers who write is that we often approach another dance with the blank page out of inspiration to write about a thing we have seen or heard or read or felt or thought. And often we are hindered by the hard little sweaty heads on our arm as we type, yanking us away from the memory of that thing we saw or heard or read or felt or into thought and swiftly into the moment of focusing on the current or next thing or just the breathing in of them. And thinking about the thinking about the breathing of them. And thinking about how to write that out.

The thing about mothers who write is that we {Mama. Mama. Mama, come here.} are often {Mama, look at this. Hey, Mama. Mama! Mama, watch me.} interrupted {MAMA. MAMA. MAMAAAAAA!} by our children, despite the {Mama. Mama, can I? Mama, will you get me something to drink?} mountainous effort we place on {Mama, I'm hungry for a snack. Mama, will you get me a snack?} trying to dig our heels in and {Mama, I don't want to go to sleep. Mama, will you let me watch something on your iPad?} really try hard to do this thing of writing every day.

*Not an exaggeration.

The thing about mothers who write is that we miss writing down so much of what we see and hear and feel and think. Before we can snatch it out of the distraction or the edges of our memory, it's just gone.

The think about mothers who write is that we want someone to tell us the secret. We just want someone to tell us how to do it all right. We want someone to tell us how to get the words out and shaped into meaning, and the exact right meaning, mind you, and quickly for heaven's sake because there is no time. We want to know the secret of doing this while also not letting down the people who want to tell us things and show us things and rest their damp little noggins on our arms. 

The thing about mothers who write is that we want so much for our words, but we want even more for our mothering. 

Miss Ruby Comes to Stay

I have this list of things (actually, lots of lists. I even have lists of lists. Lists are my jam.) that I really wish I would have done by now. Now, as thankful as I am for having a WAY longer list of things I'm grateful for having already done, there are a few tiny things that I should have gotten around to by now. A few? Watching at least the first season of Dr. Who, read something -anything- by Flannery O'Connor, yada yada yada. This is the year I turn 35, and there are lots of things on that list that are suddenly getting shifted up because I'm feeling all "what am I waiting for??" these days.

Learning how to sew is absolutely one of those things I've been waiting and wanting to do. Waiting for what...I don't even know, man. There are three very cute little girls in this house whose mama enjoys them so very much, and sewing is a thing, a skill, that everybody could use yet is fading fast. The last two trips to the fabric store cranked up that desire to sew quite a lot and that, paired with a serendipitous post on Varage Sale, resulted in getting a much better deal anyway on Amazon, which culminated in the arrival of this lovely lady you see here.    

missruby

Interweb friends, meet Miss Ruby.

Miss Ruby and I have gotten to know each other the past few days, and I must say she is an absolute gem. (heh)

She is mostly a compliant lady who helps us put in some stitches to whatever creation I am figuring out at the moment, and sometimes she laughs when I forget to do a thing like put down the presser foot before starting. Occasionally she cusses at me in thread if I mess up, but understands when I give it right back to her. She's been a good new friend and hopefully she'll feel welcome here for years to come. We're gonna do great things, Miss Ruby and I.

miss ruby's manual

When taking her out of the box, the first thing I did was study the manual. Not just read the manual, but actually study the manual. The vocabulary of sewing is the first hurdle to figuring it out...because the presser foot? It is absolutely not what you probably think it is if you're a non-sewing person. I watched videos on YouTube, scoured Pinterest for tips and tricks, and studied videos created by the Singer Sewing company. They have their own YouTube channel, by the way, which is perfectly helpful.

So I studied Miss Ruby, made sure I could name all her bits and pieces, and moved on to actually winding the bobbin, loading the bobbin, threading the machine, and raising the bobbin thread. Have your eyes gone crossed yet? This might be easy for most of you but it took me HOURS, people. Hours.

The Captain sacrificed an old shirt to the cause because I had no material to practice on. This is good foreplanning, right? We cut it into bits and then practiced sewing. It was spectacular and powerful and moved too fast but then too slow and the stitch line way too crooked. Always too crooked. Whatever, I figured. We will get to that later. Do you sewing persons have help for me on this, by the way? I read about the zig zag stitch and the straight stitch but all I have right now is the drunk stitch.

I had selected this project as my first because of the aforementioned fabric issue and because the sweet lady used words like "fun!" and "easy!" when the pin came up in my search for simple sewing projects for beginners.

Presenting...my very first sewing creation!!! Please, hold your applause.

first sewing project

Please note the interesting stitch work, the use of a leveler to measure because where is the measuring tape in this house, and the use of actual chalk in lieu of a fabric chalk pencil. Are you impressed yet? Good times, friends, good times. We all had a good laugh at this one. I would now like to draw your attention to what I'm calling the firefly stitch. It's a new thing Miss Ruby and I came up with. All the sew-ers are going to be doing it before long.

firefly stitch

What came next, though, was the best part. Sassafras decided that she was hip to this sewing thing, too. And I told her, I can't teach you...I don't know how to do this. So we looked at each other and shook hands and we decided to learn together. She made these two creations to give away, and I told her all I would do was press the pedal (she actually tried, but her brain couldn't work both parts so she ended up holding her foot down while screaming...can't say much, did the same thing my first time.)

She had to do everything else herself. And so she did. My baby measured (with the leveler, ahem), she pinned, she cut, she sewed, she flipped it inside out, and she sewed it again. Then she made a little purse for her Jjajja, though she did remark about 10 times that she would just have to tell her that it wasn't perfect but it was handmade! (insert her Sassy hand motions and head tilt)

Sassafras sews
 She made this sweat rag for her Pop, who swears he is going to frame it.

She made this sweat rag for her Pop, who swears he is going to frame it.

And she was right, of course. I think that's going to be the point of all this for us. Nothing we ever do is going to be perfect, but it will be our little handmade experience.

Miss Ruby, she's here to stay. Maybe she can help us check some more items off a few other lists around here...

Racial Reconciliation

Before I became Pearl's mama, I liked to think that I was colorblind. I liked to think that was a good way to be. My high school was about 155 miles from Podunk, and I remember once that in my junior or senior year (16 years ago) there was a huge KKK rally planned for the outskirts of town. Many of the black, white, and Native American students in my community raged against it. We made red, white, and black braided bracelets. We wrote letters to the editor of the local newspaper. We were activists, doggone it, and we wanted everybody to know that we were all the same, united, and the haters could just canoe on downstream.

pearl and sass cooking

I liked to think that "we are all black in the dark," and that the color of one's skin doesn't have any impact whatsoever on who they are as a person.

What I was thinking was, race doesn't matter.

And that was fine and lovely and made me feel all progressive and such. Because, after all, there are a lot of people who do think race matters in a bad way. They think white people are better than black people or they think black people are better than white people. And that's so terrible in every way, right? So if the choices are that race matters in a bad way or race doesn't matter, then we are supposed to choose race doesn't matter as moral human beings.

That was where my heart and mind had settled on the race issue.

But then I became Pearl's mama. And gradually that point of view, the dismissal of race, felt hollow and empty. Because my baby girl, my daughter, is a black person. She is a person, but God chose to put her soul into a female body with beautiful brown skin and I could no more dismiss the fact that she is brown than I could dismiss the fact that she is a she. I not only want to acknowledge the fact that Pearl Girl is black, I value it. Being Pearl's mama taught me that there is a third choice when it comes to race relations. Race matters in a bad way or race doesn't matter are not our only options. The third, better, option is that race matters in a good way.

Last year I saw this TED Talk about the importance of not being color blind but rather color BRAVE in modern society, and Mellody Hobson nails it.

In teaching me to value rather than dismiss my daughter's race, God has drawn me to the point of yearning for racial reconciliation. There is so much work to be done in America as a whole, but especially the South. The past year has been especially volatile in all the events around the nation involving discrimination and brutality against people of color.

Mostly, the sickness that plagues my race is deafness to what black people have been saying for generations about how they feel and how they are treated and how that impacts every detail of their lives. As white people, we must be willing to listen to our fellow Americans of color and truly attempt to process what they say and feel. It sounds silly to even say out loud, but white people are not the experts on how black people feel they are treated; black people are.

In discussing some of this with friends, African Americans have told me that they are tired of saying these things because it doesn't do any good. They tell me they are afraid to speak out on social media or in their social circles because of the backlash (they'll be labeled as a troublemaker, or angry, and potentially lose their standing or even their employment if they speak up). That makes me so sad, and it reminds me of how John Howard Griffin was a respected member of the civil rights movement because he was a white person. Even though he said the exact same things the black men and women said, the white people would only listen to him because he was also a white person. Doesn't that sound insane? It feels REALLY insane to see that, all these years later, we still struggle with the same problem of listening between races, specifically white people listening to black people when they talk about their hurts and how they feel about the way they are treated today.

I've spent time being part of the problem, but I want so desperately to be part of the solution.

Race does matter, but it matters in a good way. Other than prayer, racial reconciliation begins with listening.

God, help us not only to see one another but also to hear and value one another. Help us to do better. Help us to be better.