My Cup Runneth Over

My Cup Runneth Over

The mornings have been foggy all week.  We wake sluggishly and pad downstairs.  Coffee is mandatory.  I’ve deemed it our couch cafe–we take one couch, Fisher curls up and takes the other.

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I bought this Santa mug at Target two years ago.  I tend to buy things in pairs, but in this case hadn’t, regretted it and immediately went back to the store to find another.  And. COULDN’T.

I told Stephen about it one night.  What started out as a passing comment turned into an ode to the Santa mug and the quest finding a second one had become.  They were sold out online!  The store was out! What would I do without matching mugs?! Should I take this one back and look elsewhere for a matching set?! But then what if that left me without ANY Santa mugs and why was I suddenly so crazy about mugs?!

A few days later my sister and I rushed up to Seattle to be with our dad.  We had a final weekend together before he passed away.  We talked cars and eggnog by day and by night we had the conversations only sisters can have as we navigated I-405, my dad’s townhouse and saying goodbye.

It was painful, but in that beautiful way endings can be.  Moments were strung together by an awareness time was slipping and the only thing we could do was let go and try to savor each moment.  The moments were pure and connected.  Rich with sadness, gratitude, forgiveness, love and support.  Until finally the moments with him were gone.

On our last night in Seattle, just days until Christmas, Amy and I were walking through Target so we could pick up some last minute gifts before I headed back to Portland and she headed back to California.  I turned a corner, looked up and saw something that made me tear up and laugh at the same time.

It was one Santa mug. The last mug left.

Last year as I packed up my house, two Santa mugs were wrapped in about 50 sheets of bubble wrap for the move from Oregon to Georgia.  I pulled them out last Christmas when my new house had no furniture and I was still using a Garmin to find the grocery store.  The mugs came out again this year and will be used every morning until January.

My dad still is around.  The alarm on his ever present Timex which used to go off every hour stopped and now only beeps in perfect, quiet moments where I’m talking about him or missing him.  I walked out of the airport to Stephen’s new car which had a randomly issued license place with RAY as the first three letters, my dad’s name.  But my favorite is when he shows up in my dreams.  We just talk.  About nothing. And everything.  The way that we did.  The way that we still do.

Snapshots of Fall 2017

Snapshots of Fall 2017

Fall 2017 marked Stephen and my second anniversary and my first year living in the south.

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It had some of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen.

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It was the start of my second season watching the Falcons.

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And I got a new roommate…

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…he’s pretty cute and makes a mean fire.

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It was the fall of the first Oktoberfest at the local brewery and the band playing at the amphitheater in town.

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It was also the fall we learned the band was going to be uncles!  Eva (singer) and Kelley (drummer) are expecting twin girls this spring ❤ ❤

We showed off Atlanta to our Portland houseguest.

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Before I jumped on planes myself and went to Minneapolis and Portland.

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We drove to Birmingham for possibly the best named early Thanksgiving, “Turkey in the Ham,” a 35+ year family tradition I’m in my second year attending.  We were hungry just in time for Thanksgiving with local family I consider myself very fortunate to have found myself a part of.

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(I have no other pictures because I was either too busy stuffing my face, talking, or holding the cutest baby imaginable.)

It was the fall of knitting a blanket larger than I intended while audio-booking the Maisie Dobbs series and picking up pumpkins at my favorite little church.

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There were trivia nights and candlelight.  Halloween parties, housewarming parties and our councilman won parties (!).  But more importantly, tucked in amongst all of the pictures of things and places are the people I am grateful to have met, continue to get to know and that show me such kindness I move through this world able to call a lot of places home.

The Magic of Timing

The Magic of Timing

A couple of weeks ago Stephen and I went to dinner at a new to us place.  I attempted sushi for the first time since I moved (it wasn’t the west coast’s, but it was good!).  We talked about how fast the last year has gone.

The change to fall immediately made me feel more settled.  Fall is my favorite time of year and I was finally experiencing something in Georgia for the second time around.

As we walked out of the restaurant a light rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds.  We quickly jumped in the car and took off for some of our favorite country roads.

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The sky was orange and mist rose over open fields.  Around each corner I thought we had reached the pinnacle of beauty until we’d turn the next corner and I realized we hadn’t.

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We drive these roads all the time, but I had never seen them like this.  It was a gift we were lucky to experience by being in the right spot at the right time.

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Sometimes timing can feel off.  Someone’s having a bad day.  I’m having a bad day.  Expectations don’t match reality.  Reality may feel way too real.

I thought as I got older I’d get wiser.  But the older I get, the less I know.  It’s scary but sometimes liberating.  Some days I go from freedom to fear in the same moment.

And then sometimes all of that gets pushed aside and magic just shows up without any input from me.

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Maybe you’re traveling for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you’re not.  Maybe you’ll be surrounded by people.  Maybe you won’t.  Maybe this right now feels like precisely your time in life.  Or maybe right now this absolutely does not feel like the right time in your life.  Holidays have a way of bringing expectations to the foreground.  Sometimes that can be magic.  Sometimes it can be crushing.

While I don’t know much, I do know this.  We all get our share of magic, it’s just a matter of timing.  Wherever you are, I wish you well.  If you’re in the magic, enjoy.  If you’re in the fog, keep going.  And if you need a break, take it but come back soon.  We need you.

 

The Things I Carry

The Things I Carry

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I took this picture over a year ago on one of my last mornings living in Portland.  Fisher and I were on a walk and stumbled upon these little heart leaves that dotted our path the whole way home. Yesterday I got back from a few days in Portland.  It was the first time I had been back since I moved to Georgia last year.

I was curious how I would feel.  I lived in Portland for 12 years and Seattle for a few years prior.  I love the Pacific Northwest.  I have amazing friends, colleagues and memories in that part of the country.   I wondered if I’d have a hard time leaving, if somehow my thoughts or feelings about Georgia would change.

Moving to Georgia was big.  It was a move of opposing forces.  It was both weighty and also the simplest decision I’ve ever made.  I could tell it made almost everyone feel uneasy, yet there was also a lot of excitement for Stephen and me.  I was giving up roots and stability to move somewhere completely new.  The climate was going to be changing–both politically and weather-ily (totally a word).

As I was flying home yesterday, 30,000 feet up in the air with my only distraction being the question of whether or not I should watch Anchorman again, I looked out the window and thought about how I carry both places with me, along with everywhere I’ve been.

And this is the wonder, the thing I keep coming back to.  Even though everything is different, it’s all the same.  It doesn’t matter where I am.  I love the Northwest and I love Georgia.  I love cool weather and I hate the heat.  I love sunny mornings and Saturdays, people who are thoughtful, kind and care about others and their community.  I hate close-mindedness in all of its forms.  I both love and hate that I was so careful for so long.  When opportunity presented itself, I could take a risk and be just fine but what else have I missed out on by waiting?

The three of us walk now.  Around the lake we crunch through golden leaves made brighter by dappled sunshine.  We talk. We plan. We crack jokes and then stumble upon hearts that dot our path here too.  We stop for a moment to appreciate them before moving along quietly.  We’ve picked up something new to carry.

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here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings
from i carry your heart with me

Poe

Poe

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It is common for the small towns around here to have a commercial square at their center.  I have written about our town’s square before.  It’s one of my favorite places–home to two bookstores, trivia nights at the bars, and a great little coffee shop where we warmed up all last winter and played cards.

Today I introduce you to Poe, unofficial square ambassador.

Poe belongs to the oldest bookstore in Georgia–a shop with dark hardwood floors and old drugstore shelves that contain books on local history amongst the latest best sellers and classic children’s literature.  There is a knitting group that meets once a month in the cozy basement downstairs and a fireplace tucked away a corner.

Every morning Poe leaves the bookshop to spend his days in the Square.  He looks both ways before crossing the street, waits for the owner of the barbecue joint so he can traipse to her car where he gets treats.  Some days he forgoes the routine all together and just lays on top of her car swishing his tail and waiting.

The bookshop takes in foster kittens from the local humane society, but Poe seems to prefer the company of people on the square.  He’ll sit in chairs across from solo diners, give you a single, gravelly, Tom Waits style meow when you say hello and occasionally presents his belly for scratches.

Every night the bookshop owner’s daughter comes looking for him asking if he wants to go home.  He allows her to pick him up and carry him back to the shop so he can rise and do it all over again tomorrow.

Miss Mayhayley

Miss Mayhayley

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One sunny Saturday afternoon, Stephen and I struck out to find the grave of Miss Mayhayley Lancaster.  We followed the directions, as only directions can be given in this town, “you know that first road right outside the county line with the two gas stations?  Turn right there and it’s pretty much a straight shot.”

I get a kick out of hearing people give directions here.  “Turn at Jeff’s Exxon,” yet another gas station reference that sounds simple but is slightly more complicated as the gas station is no longer an Exxon, nor is it another gas station called Jeff’s, but a BP that used to be Jeff’s Exxon.  Got it?  Neither do I.  That’s why Stephen does the country driving and I do the city driving.

Miss Amanda Mayhayley Lancaster is a local legend in West Georgia.  There’s a healthy mix of curiosity, fear and lore that still surround her even 60 years after she passed.  Me? I’m a sucker for quirk and a story.  My interest has been piqued since the day I first heard the name.

Miss Mayhayley was born in Georgia in 1875 and had a pretty impressive career path.  Midwife, lawyer, teacher, politico and, you know, fortune teller/oracle.  She never married, dressed in military jackets and hats, had a marble eye and stuffed all kinds of cash in the backyard of the small shack where she lived with her dogs and sister.  Stephen said if you were alive during 1875 to 1955 and lived around here you had a Mayhayley story.  Lost items?  She could tell you where to find them.  Missing persons?  Yes.  Aaaaand dead bodies?  Yep, them too.

Miss Mayhayley was a witness for the prosecution in a big murder case that was made into a TV movie, Murder in Coweta County, which starred Johnny Cash and Andy Griffith.  June Carter Cash played Miss Mayhayley (it’s on Amazon Prime if you want to check it out.)  She was able to tell the prosecution where to find the body.  The body, or parts of the body, eventually led to the conviction of a local landowner/bully who had taken over an entire town.

I’ve heard teenage stories of going to visit her grave where you cross over three bridges and only come back over two.  People have been in car wrecks after defacing her grave.  There is a great, local “swamp, gypsy, rag-time band” called Mayhayley’s Grave in town.  And now I have my own story.

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One sunny day, we went out to pay our respects to Miss Lancaster.  We turned right on the road just outside the county line by the two gas stations and parked in the quiet parking lot of a pretty white church.  We left $1.10 on top of her grave stone, which was what she charged.  $1 for her and $0.10 for her dogs.  Her gravestone reads “for neither did his brethren believe in him” but I have a feeling people still believe in Miss Mayhayley far more than she thought possible.

(Mayhayley Lancaster Photo Source)

Neighborhood Joint

Neighborhood Joint

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There is a diner in town known for their pancakes that come with only two options:  one pancake or two and the warning “don’t even try three.”  The pancakes take 20 minutes to cook, are the size of a dinner plate and the height of a quarter.  Smeared with butter and doused with syrup it’s a nap waiting to happen.  Ergo, I love it.  Two of my favorite things, breakfast and naps.

It’s in my blood.  For years my Gam and I would have breakfast on Monday mornings at The Huddle in San Diego’s Mission Hills.  We’d meet at her place on Ibis Street, walk the few blocks to Goldfinch and pull up a stool at the counter.  After a while we were no longer given menus, they’d just start cooking the moment we entered the door.  A bagel and an egg for Gam. Eggs, bacon and hash browns for me.  And coffee.  Lots of coffee.

Gam delighted in aesthetics and adored The Huddle’s tall coffee mugs.  She complimented them every morning and was so sweet that when the restaurant updated their dishes they held aside a few of the tall mugs just for her.

When Gam no longer remembered what day it was, she’d still walk over to The Huddle every morning for breakfast.  On Mondays they’d send her back home knowing I’d be meeting her at 8 a.m.  until eventually I’d just walk into The Huddle on Mondays and greet her surprised “Becky!” with a hug and smile.

We’d take long walks afterwards with Paul, a retired teacher we befriended over the years.  Nasturtiums flooded the canyons, front yards bloomed with hydrangeas and a sweet little black cat would get fawned over whenever we walked by his house.

When I moved to Seattle I started going down the street to the Stone Way Cafe.  The Stone Way Cafe now serves beer in the evenings and has a menu that includes frittatas and enchilada stacks but at the time they were a greasy spoon where the most adventurous entree was Eggs Benedict.  I’d warm my hands on mugs of hot, rich coffee while sitting next to commercial fishermen, the only other people up that early.  Eventually I found the highly rated (top five in the country!) Maltby Cafe and, along with the rest of Seattle, would make the hour long haul for their local eggs and biscuits.  Who knew it’d be a primer for living in the south?

When I asked Stephen if there was a bagel place in town he gave it some thought then said “why would anyone need bagels when there are biscuits?”  And so, the first time I came to Georgia to visit, we met up with his close friends for biscuits before heading to Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival.  The biscuits were so big I ended up eating mine with a fork and knife.  (Which, for the record, is not how you’re supposed to eat a biscuit.)  (Everyone was too nice to say anything.)

Maybe it was all of the Alice I watched as a kid…or the disturbing, yet somehow charming, diner lingo.  Where else would “burn the British and draw one in the dark” get you a toasted english muffin and cup of black coffee? But there is something so comforting knowing that right now in the cold dark mornings of fall, in towns all across the country, there are people pulling up to small diners.  Warm light pours from windows onto dark sidewalks, bells ring as doors open, seats are taken at tall counters and laminated menus dropped off with hot coffee poured in just the right mugs to let you know that you’re home.