Tag Archives: happiness

C+ Living

school-303928_1280Raise you hand if you are a bit of a perfectionist…Raise it high. And straight. But just high enough that your upper arm doesn’t flap. And be sure you aren’t blocking anyone behind you. Is that a pit stain? Might be a pit stain, so lower your hand ever so slightly to get that situation covered up. But does lowering your hand imply that you’re less of a perfectionist? Might be. Raise it high. Oh but the pit stain. And not too fast or the arm will flap. It’s hard to hold that hand up for this long. Need to work out more. Weight bearing activity reduces the chances of osteoporosis……..WHAT WERE WE TALKING ABOUT?

Oh yeah–perfectionism.

I live with it. Being a perfectionist doesn’t mean that my life is perfect–it means I feel constant guilt because it’s NOT perfect. So maybe I’m a lazy perfectionist.

Yesterday, I was talking to my friend about people who either give themselves 100 points or zero points. Anything less than perfect is an utter failure. She and I were at the employee Health Fair. We were at  the height and weight station for BMI calculation. I got on the electronic scale and it said, “One at a time, please.” We each got our BMI and consulted the chart. Hers was 25 and she was crestfallen. “It’s in the overweight category!” This woman ran 12 miles this weekend, so she was a little bit annoyed with the BMI number. I looked at the “Healthy Weight” category. Guess what the highest range was for healthy BMI? 24.9

One tenth of a percentage and she was dissatisfied. Stuck in the wrong category after all that work. Damned by .10 on a broad scale.

It reminded me of grades and school and all those arbitrary measures we impose on ourselves. Is a 92 really that different from an 89? Is a BMI of 25 different from 24.9?

I have to remind myself constantly that C is average, not A. In those times, I shoot for C+ living. Average, with a teensy bit to acknowledge some extra effort.

Sunday Sweetness–Having It All

Today’s story is a flashback to New Year’s Eve when I stood on a pink beach and watched a gold balloon float into the sky.  You can’t have it all, but there is so much to love. Have a great day today, for “when it is August, you can have it August and abundantly so.” Click the photo to read “There Is This.”

Image courtesy Pixabay

Image courtesy Pixabay

This Blue Sky Is Not Beautiful Because…

As I walked between buildings this morning with my face in my smartphone and my head filled with project deadlines, housekeeping minutiae, goals and dreams and regrets that make up the miasma that sublets my head, a red rosebud caught my attention.  I turned off the phone for a second.

I took a deeper breath and pushed it down through my tense muscles, all the way to my feet. My feet sent back the message that I was walking on a pebbled path made of gentle curves, passing under five old oak trees.  My brain wafted down the word “psithurism”–the word for the sound that wind makes in trees.  I couldn’t help but smile.

At the end of the path, I stopped on the sidewalk to let a car pass, even though I had the right of way at the crosswalk.  Reflexively, my mind clicked over to berating the car’s driver for not seeing me…but I stopped and chose to breathe again.  I lifted my eyes, and this is what I saw:blue sky

Such a surprise, to SEE the sky and accept with grateful wonder that I get to live in a place on a day in a moment when that color is right there for me to see.  No charge, no ticket required, no restrictions apply.

At that moment, what words popped into my head?

“This blue sky is not beautiful BECAUSE of anything.  It just IS. It is and it is beautiful.

Not because I have a job.

Not because my clothes match and smell nice.

Not because my son’s potty training is on or off track.

Not because the scale said a certain number.

Not because I met that deadline.

Not because I wrote today or slept last night or ate the right balance of carbs to protein or remembered to take the school supplies to the teacher.  All those things that fill my mind have nothing whatsoever to do with this blue sky that brings me such delight.

And no self-respecting Georgia Girl could dive into a sky like that without humming “Blue Sky” by The Allman Brothers.  Here’s one of only five recordings of “Blue Sky” from the glory days of the brothers, the band, the Betts.  This version was recorded live in 1971 at SUNY Stonybrook.  It’s long, because it was the 70s.  Worth every single second–breathe your way through it instead of playing Candy Crush or worrying about carbs.

“You’re my blue sky, you’re my sunny day.  Lord y’know it makes me high when you turn your love my way. Turn your love my way…” Click the photo of the band if you’d like to go back to that day:


A Life Made From Crumbs


Image courtesy Pixabay

In this story, I will attempt to weave together a stale Nutrigrain bar, a trip to Bermuda, the loneliness of mothering, two sparrows, and an Anglo-Saxon parable from the Venerable Bede.  Hold on to your butts, kids, because THIS is where a liberal arts degree can take you…

Last week, I took the two littles to the beach for a week.  And you know how–even on vacation–you’re still The Mom?  Butt wiping, breakfast fixing, tantrum abiding, sunscreen applying Mom.  I hit a point on Wednesday when the black cloud of sadness that nips at my heels caught up with me, all because of a stale Nutrigrain bar. When I asked Carlos if he wanted Cheeries for breakfast, he said “Yes!”…but he didn’t eat them.  So I gave him some grapes, which he stomped into the carpet.  So I asked him if he would eat a cereal bar and he said, “YES!”  He didn’t.  He smeared it into the rented yellow couch and giggled.

It broke me.  My motherator locked up.

I retreated to my bedroom where, in the space of two minutes, my frustrating morning escalated into a sobbing fit.  “I will die alone. No one gives a shit about me.  Why should they? I can’t even feed my kids.  I suck at taking care of them.  No one takes care of ME. I am so tired and lonely and tired of being lonely and this is just the way life is and you might as well suck it up.  This is as good as it gets. You are born alone, you die alone, with some yammering and distraction in between. Oh, and you’re overweight, you haven’t written in a week and that spot on your belly is probably ringworm.”

At that moment, in that despair, I saw my life as this long string of me waiting to be handed whatever was left over, whatever was unwanted, whatever was not quite good enough.

I was still holding the remains of the Nutrigrain bar.  Instead of wiping it into the wastebasket, I slid open the glass door and stepped out onto the balcony.  I crumbled the apple filling onto the glass-topped cafe table then stepped back inside.  I took a deep breath and sank into the rented yellow chair to stare listlessly out the window from the air-conditioned comfort of my room.  Because when you’re going to have a snot-slinging fit about how miserable your life is, it’s best to do it while enjoying the view from a beachfront condo while your two healthy kids watch PBSKids in the other room.

Within a few minutes, a sparrow hopped onto the balcony railing then down to the table.  She pecked at the crumbs before flitting away.  She came back with a companion and the two of them made a feast from my leftovers.  The smashed cereal bar that had broken my spirit–to them it was a banquet beyond imagining.

As I watched them reveling in their treasure, I remembered a little sparrow from Bermuda, when Richard and I went there for the first time in about 2002, maybe 2003.  We stayed at a fantastic resort called The Reefs in a cliffside room.  One morning, a sparrow perched on our balcony.  It hopped down to the terra cotta tile floor to search for crumbs.  I noticed that one of its legs was misshapen.  It stuck out to the side at a painful angle, but it didn’t seem to slow the little bird down.  That leg was the leg the bird had been given–what choice did it have?  We named the little bird “Gimpy” and we adopted him as our own pet project.

For the rest of the week, I smuggled scones, dinner rolls, breadsticks, tea sandwiches and biscuits back to our room to feed Gimpy.  There was a German waitress at the dinner service who saw me wrapping rolls in a linen napkin.  When I told her why I was doing it, she brought a basket of rolls from the kitchen and whispered, “For your leetle buhd.”

I was sad to leave Gimpy, but it’s not like we could take him with us. He had to live his life, a life of crumbs, but a life of crumbs in Berumda. We had to leave him to that, to love him as best we could, while we could, then we had to go our way.

Now, you Christians are probably humming, “I sing because I’m happy!  I sing because I’m free!  His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me!”  I love that song.  But here’s another thought on sparrows and eternity and whether or not we matter.

The Venerable Bede, a monk from Anglo-Saxon England, wrote this story in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (circa 627, so he’s not on Twitter @VenerableBede):

“When we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your lords and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing.”

All we get is this swift flight through a warm hall, picking up the crumbs from a great feast. It can be enough.  We make joy for ourselves by feeding frail birds on stolen bread.  We make a life from crumbs. We keep flying.

Imagine the delight Richard and I felt when we returned to The Reefs six months later and found Gimpy alive and kicking on the terrace.  That was a good day, a sweet day.  We stood there on the edge of a cliff, in the middle of a vast ocean, in the last year of our life together, and we laughed into the wind because our little bird lived.

That’s the story that came to me last week.  I flew out of that dark place on sparrow’s wings.

Be Somebody

Encourage someone today.  Remind them of their potential.  Tell them something you appreciate about them.  Share a sincere compliment with a stranger.  Look at yourself in the mirror and remember that you are a somebody.  

Be somebody who makes everyone you meet feel like a somebody.



A Moment in the Sun

My friend Jo said she wanted to hear a story about my grandmother, so I’m going to share a little jewel of a story from my childhood that is so precious, I wish I could remember it myself.  My dad tells it to me about once a year and I am glad that he never thinks I tire of hearing it.  I don’t.

I was the youngest child of the youngest child, so at Grandmama Eunice’s house, I was The Baby.  She lived right off the highway about halfway between Gay and Greenville in a rambling white house that burned in 1985.  We had already said goodbye to the house a few years earlier, when she had sold the farm and moved into an apartment near Daddy.  There’s nothing atop that hill now, but I still pull into what’s left of the driveway whenever I drive by.  It’s a strange emptiness for a place that held so many memories.  The emptiness of the now compared to the fullness of then.

If I start from the driveway and that patch of front yard where my parents left the car, I can walk my memory up the cement steps, painted barn red and faced in stone.  It’s probably only two steps across the flat expanse of the cement front porch to the screen door but it seemed like such a way to go back then.  In summer, the door would be flanked by begonias or ferns set on upended fruit crates.  Metal patio chairs in yellow or green waited for the cool hours after sundown when the grownups went out there for a breeze and some story telling.  If my tiny then self walks over to the left edge of the porch–no railing–and looks down, I see deep purple morning glories.  Purple was my Grandmama Eunice’s favorite color.

The flap and creak of the screen door then the rattle of the wide thin glass that took up the top half of her front door.  I step into the warmth of the living room with just one fan moving summer air near the green chenille sofa.  To my right would be a delicate plant stand with last Christmas’ cactus blooming in the light from the window.  A framed picture of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, his robe the same deep purple as the morning glories.

The hall tree with its beveled mirrors and thick laquer, turned black with years, covered in a pile of my aunts’ purses.  A spindly modern coffee table that held a giant book of Currier and Ives prints and two glass paper weights–one a photo of my father as a curly-headed toddler and one a quiet photo of his father in a Stetson hat, the grandfather none of us had the privilege of knowing.  A brown platform rocker, a basket of Guideposts  and Readers Digests, some bamboo furniture covered in hibiscus fabric left over from the days in Florida.

My memory goes around the room, touching each place, smelling the warm dust in the air. I can’t remember the specific color of the walls–maybe pale blue. But just by writing that, I am overwhelmed by the memory of the light fixture, something I haven’t thought of in years.  It hung on a brown cord from the high ceiling.  There was no switch.  Someone tall had to reach up and over the milky glass globe and pull the chain to turn the bulb on.  Then after they let it go, the light on its long cord would swing back and forth, casting shadows along the length of the room, until enough seconds passed and the pendulum came to rest.

That corner of the living room–the path from the front door to the dining room and kitchen beyond it–that was the high traffic spot in Grandmama Eunice’s house.  To and fro, back and forth, coming and going.  One summer afternoon, we were all at the house for Sunday dinner.  It was a crowd of folks, so maybe my Uncle Charles and Uncle Kenneth had brought their families up from Florida.  That seemed to happen most summers and I loved it.  They were glamorous people with tans and big sedans and they almost always arrived with giant lollipops from Stuckeys.

In the afternoon, the grownups headed for the porch with their bellies full of fried chicken, green beans, sliced tomatoes, sweet tea and started swapping stories as blue Marlboro smoke hung above their heads in the still air.  I remember the way my Aunt Betty’s sandal would tap tap tap against the concrete as she rocked in her chair.  While the other kids were off running and playing, I preferred to sit just inside the screen door, where I could listen to the adults talk.

And that’s the story that Daddy tells.  I was about four.  In the midst of that busy, loud afternoon, I was sitting there cross-legged on the dusky brown carpet, under the watchful eye of a Jesus with plenty on his mind already.  I had found the perfect spot:  a square of sunshine from the screen door, within earshot of the talkers but in front of the fan.

Grandmama walked past me once and said, “Baby?  Don’t you want to go play?”

I shook my head.  She went on her way.

A few minutes later, she came through heading the other direction.  “You OK?”

I nodded.

She came by again, probably with a pitcher of tea.  She stopped in front of me and asked, “Ashley?  What are you DOING?”

I looked up at her and said, “I’m just sitting here being happy.”

And she let me be.


That place is gone.  My Grandmama died twenty years ago and I still think of her every day.  But while writing this and walking through that ghost of a living room, I remembered that I actually received those paper weights from her coffee table after she died.  I’ve had them carefully wrapped up in paper for all these years, waiting to have just the right safe place to put them.  Now I have my writing room and I took them out tonight and gave them a shady place of honor by my reading chair.  My father as a boy with Carlos’ hair, and my grandfather’s quiet eyes, keeping watch over me when I sit in the brown platform rocker from that living room and think my thoughts.

We don’t get to take everyone or every thing from our past, but we get enough.  Enough to be happy, just sitting here.

Samuel Fuller Garrett and Milton Joseph Garrett

Samuel Fuller Garrett and Milton Joseph Garrett


I wish I could find a better picture of Grandmama Eunice, but she sure did like purple!

I wish I could find a more dignified picture of Grandmama Eunice, but she sure did like purple!









Morning Magic

Wednesday morning, I drove over to Watkinsville for a meeting…that had been canceled.  No one thought to tell me. Oh well.  I was in such a good mood that there was no frustrating me with inconveniences.  When you find yourself in Watkinsville early in the morning and you haven’t eaten breakfast yet and you have a little time on your hands, what do you do?  This girl pops in to Waffle House for a Cheese and Eggs platter with grits, wheat toast, and sausage.  Aw, yeah!

I sat at the low counter because all the spinny seats at the high counter were taken.  On one perched a retired man in a cowboy hat with a peacock feather bobbing from the band.  The seat by the register held a prosperous looking fellow in an emerald green golf shirt who held up a full-page newspaper ad and told the waitress, “THAT is NOT Kim Kardashian.”  Obvious Photoshopping on the waistline.  In the center, a couple deep in their phones.

Ms V. took my order–she’s my favorite because one time Vivi and I went in there and they talked about sharing V names.  While the cooks did their thing, one of the younger girls started singing a pop song.  She wasn’t as entertaining as she thought she was.  Ms. V must not have approved because after she dropped off my plate, she walked over to the jukebox, pressed some magic button and started up something far better:  Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch singing “I’ll Fly Away” from the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack.


I couldn’t help it. Quietly, under my breath.  Just loud enough to hear myself…I started singing.

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

The Cheese and Eggs platter reminds me of my Grandmama Eunice.  In the summers when I was young, I spent the days with her while my parents and siblings worked.  Some days, she would fix me a big breakfast–eggs, sausage, grits and toast.  I liked to use the toast as a base, pile on a little dab of grits for mortar, then a little bit of egg, then a bite of sausage and eat it all together.  I still eat it that way at the Waffle House.  I was thinking of Grandmama Eunice and those breakfasts, singing “When the shadows of this life have gone, I’ll fly away,” when I realized that the woman beside me was singing too.  And the man with the newspaper was whistling along.  The peacock feather kept the beat.  Ms. V joined in on the chorus.


I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away
Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away


A few hours earlier, my friend, Hannah, had shared this quote from J. B. Priestley:  “I have always been delighted at the prospect of  a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.”  Amen.  I found my bit of magic at the Waffle House in Watkinsville, singing an old song with strangers.  My bill was $8 and I left a $20 for Ms. V.

Here’s to a new day, a fresh try, one more start!

morning magic