My Hero

I shared this as part of another IG challenge, this one a writing challenge with @simmeringmind. The prompt was: A real life hero or writer who inspires you. Photo from Unsplash.

Anytime I think of a hero, I think of my kids. My kids are the reason I write what I do. The snippet below is an excerpt from the speech I gave at my youngest son’s graduation.

Eddie Rickenbacker, the WW I Ace and Medal of Honor recipient said, “Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.”

There have been many things to be afraid of. When the world is loud and crowds you and it’s hard to tell up from down, in from out; terror doesn’t only stalk, it sidles up next to you and tries to claw its way into your back pocket.

When he was small, the invisible and seen were jumbled together and everything screamed danger. Fears were faced daily, but I remember one day in particular. We were at the church door, and he could not move.

He did not bury his face in my skirt, but edged closer to me. We waited. After a pause, his big brother opened the glass door. We all went in together.

Our place was in the back row. During the singing all the people stood, so we did, too, and he leaned into me. His little boy body trembled. I sat back down, but did not take him into my lap. Instead, with one arm I circled his thin shoulders and laid my other hand on his sticky-damp forehead.

A man stared at us. I joined in to sing the chorus with the congregation, my arms remaining around my child, the pressure firm and sure while he sat, solid and still.

He closed his eyes. We breathed in unison. In, out, in, out. His balled up fists became loose and lost their whiteness around the knuckles.

He has always been the bravest one. 

I’ve watched him square his shoulders more times than I can count.

“Courage doesn’t always roar.

Sometimes courage is the quiet voice

at the end of the day, saying,

‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

Mary Anne Radmacher

There have been many, many tomorrows. There are Giants in the land. Everyday courage takes everyday perseverance. To see the persistence, the faith walked out in small, careful steps has grown in me a deep and steady strength I never knew was possible.

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

C.S. Lewis

To see him get up, try again, time after time is enough to produce a vision of what heroic truly means.

Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, leave a comment telling me about your biggest hero.

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ | Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

~Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate~

Lisa Wingate delivers. This book wrecked my productivity. Once I started I had to finish it. The Tennessee Children’s Home Society was a real organization that removed and sometimes even kidnapped children from poor families and sold the children to wealthy families wanting to adopt.

Twelve year old Rill is the eldest of five, and the siblings are taken away against their will to a boarding house of horrors while waiting to be placed. Rill knows her parents would never give them away. The story alternates between 1939, Rill’s story, and present day when Avery narrates as she unravels the past mystery of deep family secrets.

I had heard about the Tennessee Children’s Home before, but I didn’t realize the extent of the abuse. I was holding my breath hoping for Rill to get away. This one may end up being my favorite Lisa Wingate novel. It is definitely on my list.

This book will make you hate Georgia Tann, the woman who ran the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. I don’t think I can read another story about her for a while.

Four Simple but Significant Gift Ideas

Four Simple but Significant Gifts

 

I am sentimental. I love old photos and quilts, but the things I cherish most are memories. I like to give gifts with significance attached to them, and I love books.

 

Journals or Fill in the Blank Books

Most people think their lives are boring, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! I love getting and giving journals. Some people may need journals with prompts.

 

 

My mother’s and my grandmother’s stories are irreplaceable treasures. If I hadn’t given each of them a spiral-bound set of cards with short, easy to answer questions, I would have missed some gems.

My mother is from England, and as a young bride her experiences arriving in America are noteworthy, even if she didn’t think so. For instance, one of the prompts was a question about the Fourth of July. My mother wrote about her first celebration of this holiday. My grandmother, her mother-in-law, told her there would be a picnic. They were to have the usual fixings, including hotdogs. My mother wrote, with typical British understatement:

“I’d never eaten a hotdog before. I’d read that the Indians ate dog, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try it.”

Thinking about how the scenario must have played out, with my grandmother in charge and my reserved, soft spoken mother trying to fit in, cracks me up every time. My mother never mentioned this bit of family history until she was prompted by a journaling card. This one incident made me see my mother in a completely new light. Before, I hadn’t taken the time to imagine how strange it must’ve been to be young, newly married, away from family and everything familiar.

I learned from my grandmother’s responses about my father, as a toddler, climbing to the top of the windmill. My grandmother could do nothing about it. In those days, there was no 911. No one was around to help her, and besides, the structure was too fragile for an adult to climb up or she would have gone up after him herself. With no other recourse, she reprimanded him and yelled at him to get down right now. Then she went inside and closed her eyes while she gripped the edge of the kitchen sink, waiting for a scream. Can you imagine?

Recently my daughter and I were going through some of our old journals. We found plenty to laugh about, and a few things to cry about.

 

Books, Old or New 

The older I get the more I appreciate things that are handed down. One of my greatest treasures is a set of books that was originally a Christmas gift given to my father when he was a boy.

 

 

Finding an old book with an inscription in it ties us to the past. Old favorites shared by generations through the ages makes me feel a certain kinship with people of the past that I have no connection to otherwise. There’s something magical about a book given as a Christmas gift, inscribed with love. The sharing of beloved tales is a marvelous gift.

 

A Book of Memories

One year my mother wrote a compilation of her life and made copies for all of us grown kids. What a gem! How can you put a value on this kind of gift?

 

 

 

Recorded Storybook

If you have a young child in your life, a storybook accompanied by an audio recording of you reading the book aloud is sure to be a hit. My mother did this for my eldest when he was small. It’s not something he’s likely to ever forget.

Stories connect us in a way nothing else does.

 

What are some of your favorite gifts to give or receive?

Chasing Contentment

 

It happened again. I find myself in the same position. The position of discontentment.

When my bones rest easy, laughter fills the house, and the world is sparkly, it’s child’s play to wrap myself in contentment.

Before the race gets muddy with feet bogging daily grime and I run slap into a mountain full of sharp teeth, I am doing all right. I can be content.

But I have to work at being content. It’s not one time accomplishment. Contentment is easier to misplace than my keys, my wallet, and that book of stamps that keeps walking off.

Contentment is elusive. Just about the time I’m thinking I’ve got this thing down. I finally learned my lesson, I slide back into the pit. I don’t notice it on the way down. I’m certain those around me do, but all my complaining and grumpiness is completely justified. That’s what I tell myself.

It comes from wanting to much. It comes from being unhappy with my destiny. It’s completely different than the failures, and failure is inevitable, that provoke and motivate me to strain toward the prize.

When contentment is lost, I gain nothing but a bad attitude. I forget all the blessings that surround me. Simple pleasures are overlooked and I fail to recognize the joy I hold in my hands.

I forget to breathe.

I forget to see.

These spider  lilies came up in my front yard. They wouldn’t have bloomed if the grass has been cut regularly. Some people call them surprise lilies because you never know where they might come up.

Surprise lilies don’t need special tending. A person doesn’t have to do anything to be graced with these flowers except allow them to be.

I didn’t even notice the flowers in the front yard until one of my kids told me about them. When I glanced out of the window, it was obvious surprise lilies were making an appearance. You can see the red from some distance, lacey flags of scarlet demanding attention before the season turns and they sleep under the ground once more.

I wonder how many other simple pleasures I’ve missed because I’m too busy being discontented to count my blessings.

How do you keep contentment?

I need to remember who I am, and who I am not. The comparison game is a contentment killer.

I need to recapture my ability to take joy in the simple things. Moments of beauty are fragile. They are like iridescent soap bubbles, reflecting the light in rainbow promises of better things that live on the edges of our perception,hints of the greater things we cannot see at present. Moments of beauty fly on whatever breeze exposed to, delicately ethereal, meant to be enjoyed in a fleeting space of time.

 

Evelyn’s Autumn

This essay was in an old folder. Fall reminds me of my grandmother, Nana, and I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. I still have fond memories and miss her.

******

 

In Autumn I always think of Nana Evelyn. Lord, what a grouchy old woman. The entire time of my growing-up years she was always there, in the background. She was never demonstrative, and I was sure she didn’t care for me at all, but every once in a while she would spend time with me. One summer she taught me how to paint. I vividly recall her exceptional patience, as she showed me how to blend the reds and oranges to make fall landscapes, flicking a bit of yellow ‘just so’ to finish the medley of colorful leaves. My mother still has one of my paintings from that summer.

Fall colors just seemed to BE Nana. Anything with rich browns, warm reds and orangy golds would make her smile. She didn’t really come alive until October, a respite from the sweltering heat. Transplanted from Wisconsin, the southern climate sapped her. She never complained, just wilted.

She was different from us. I never once heard her say y’all or ain’t. When she was amused she would draw a deep breath and her eyes would widen as she pushed the air out with a little smile. The rest of us cackled and brayed. She was a tad more subtle than us girls.

She and I finally became friends after I had my third child. I began to understand her a little. I think she began to understand me, too.

During cool weather she would tramp through the woods, and pick up scraps of moss, bark and any other interesting bit of nature that caught her eye. My middle son shared a passion for creation with her, and she loaded him up with hick’ry nuts, pine cones and interesting twigs. She would explain what each thing was. “See” she would say, and he would, because he took time to notice the treasures.

She saved nature magazines and stamps for the kids, and always had a pepsi for them.

Every Christmas we would receive a plastic canvas ornament, or a ceramic angel with a crooked smile painted on by shaking hands. She made crocheted rugs out of plastic bags. My boys thought that was so cool. My sisters thought it was tacky.

Every holiday she remembered to send cards and had some small toy and candy for the boys when we dropped by.

No one seems to care about family holidays anymore. I never thought it was Nana holding it together. She never orchestrated the ordeal. That was left to the rest of us women. She just always showed up with that awful cranberry relish and tuna salad.

I have an unfinished cross-stitch I bought to make for her with two of her favorite things in the design, brown and red cardinals in an autumn setting.

When I’m out shopping this time of year and see something in her colors, I always think, “This is perfect for Nana’s birthday.” (It’s November 16) Then I remember and put it back.

I am glad I was finally able to see the colors of Evelyn’s Autumn.

********

Do the seasons trigger special memories for you?

IG Bookmarker Giveaway

 

I’m doing my first Instagram giveaway. These are two book markers I made with watercolor. Head over to this IG post if you would like to enter. You chances are pretty good since not many entered yet. Ends tomorrow.

Do you do giveaways? Do you have any tips for me?

View this post on Instagram

I have a giveaway of two watercolor bookmarks. This giveaway is for the bookmarks only, not the book. These bookmarks are one of a kind, made by me because I liked the book so much. There is a quote from All the Bright Places on each one. 💕 If you would like a chance to win one of these please follow these simple rules. 1. Follow me on Instagram. 2. Like this post. 3. Leave a comment on this post telling me which bookmark you would like a chance to win, purple or floral. For extra entries, tag a friend. Winners will be randomly selected Saturday, September 1 at 6 PM CST. Continental US entries only. Happy Reading! #giveaway #watercolorbookmarks #watercolorbookmark #free #booklover #bibliophile #bookaddict #ilovetoread #ilovebooks #readerofinstagram #readersofinstagram #whattoread #instagrammer #instagood #bookphotography #allthebrightplaces #jenniferniven #reads #readinghabit #igreaders #bookmark #bookmarks #bookmarker #pretty

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