Deep Roots, Deeper Memories…

Every family has one, the spot where photos are taken to capture those special moments in life.

For my family, it was a camellia bush located just outside our garage. In a small triangular shaped flower bed formed at the angle of our driveway and an outside storage closet.

When we moved into our house, mama had planted the small bush and through the years it grew and blossomed. Most years, vibrant pink blooms would appear each year around Christmas. Mama never missed a chance to proudly state “my camellias are in bloom.”

A single blossom would center the table for our Christmas Eve dinners and my brother Tom’s grave would get one too.

I think for mama, her camellia bush marked the passage of time, from one year to the next. I think she probably looked on those flowers and remembered what had come and gone through the years of our families life.

Over the years, the camellia bush was our picture backdrop for birthdays, first days of school, graduations, the arrival of grand-children, Easter pics, Halloween costumes, off to college photos and every other occasion worth “remembering.” Whether in bloom or not, the camellia bush, was our go to spot.

When my parents died, my niece Chelsea moved into my childhood home. As her family has expanded, she has kept the tradition of pics in front of the camellia bush going.

Photos of Chelsea and her now husband Brett and then their daughters Jaydynn and Hadley are now marked at the same spot where some of the first photos of her were taken.

This year, Chelsea and Brett have started a total remodel of the family home. A needed expansion and modernization of the house has begun to make it perfect for them.

As Chelsea began her remodel, it became painfully obvious that the camellia bush was in the way. Through numerous redesigns and plans, nothing changed, that camellia had to go.

I think as she planned, the camellia stressed Chelsea out as much as any detail of her plan, because the bush meant as much to her and held as many memories of her childhood and now motherhood, as it did the rest of our family.

Last week, Chelsea and I were together when she got a phone call, she stepped away to take it and when she returned I asked if everything was ok. She told me, that she was scheduling a mover for the tree.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was visiting my parents and brother’s graves, I got a text from Chelsea. Two photos of an excavator gently digging up and moving the camellia bush that had been the site of so many of my families memories.

After running a couple of errands, I stopped by Chelsea’s house on my way home. The excavator was just wrapping up his task and the camellia was gone from it’s original spot. I have to admit, when I drove into the driveway and saw it gone, my heart sank a bit I wasn’t sure if the move was successful or not and the site of so many memories from that little triangular plot of soil could possibly be no more.

Then as I walked around the side of the house and into the backyard I saw Chelsea, smiling and walking my way. The camellia bush now had a new home, centered in the backyard, strategically placed where it can be seen from inside, standing tall.

It’s weird that something as simple as a camellia bush can have so much significance in a families life. From generation to generation that flowering bush has connected us, decades of photos and memories, blooming each year, a reminder of our lives together.

It has a new location, but the camellia has the same home, a place where future pics will be captured, memories will be made and roots will be planted in the legacy of our family tree.

It’s Time Americans Became Americans Again

I’m old enough to remember a time when Americans fought for each other. Our common good, far outweighed our differences and the unity of “We The People,” was our guiding light.

Sadly, today, it seems as though we let our differences over-shadow our similarities and common goals. My fear is that we have gone so far past everything that makes us who we claim to be that we will never again be the UNITED States of America.

It’s like we are all so quick to judge each other by our differences that we don’t take time to explore our similarities anymore. I once heard a Pastor say “if we concentrate on the 98% of things we agree on, the other 2% will work itself out.” I believe those words to be true.

Wouldn’t it be great if we found a way to celebrate our similarities over hating our neighbors over our differences?

I think there are many issues that have caused us to slip to a place where we would rather argue than get along. Social media, the news media, leaders who don’t lead (from BOTH parties), but more than anything else I am firmly convinced it is our collective apathy.

For too many years, we have allowed our leaders and media to get away with 1/2 truths, inaction and a desire for power over a desire to find common ground and do what is best for America. We have sat back and done nothing, and now, we find ourselves in a war with each other.

Instead of working together to compromise we are all so entrenched in what we believe to be true that we won’t even allow a conversation if our “opposition” has an infinitesimal disagreement with where we stand.

If we are ever to be that “shining city on a hill” that Ronald Reagan once called us to be, it’s time we got back to being what America is all about.

In a country where both sides now espouse their patriotism and denigrate the other side, maybe each side could learn some lessons from the other.

In a country where some see our past as history that should be celebrated and others see it as hurtful, maybe a mature conversation where both sides of the argument are listened to would be helpful.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time “we the people” started acting like it.

America has gone through difficulties since we were founded, but TOGETHER we have always gotten through them, I hope we are still that America. I pray, that we concentrate on the TOGETHER before it is too late.

It’s time we grow up, start having mature and honest conversations WITH each other instead of AT each other. We will always have differences, but aren’t the 98% of our similarities more important to our combined future than the 2% that is now tearing us apart?

It’s time we started acting like Americans again….. ALL OF US!

Easter Saturday

Yesterday afternoon my family got together for an Easter cook-out.  It was the first time all of us had been together in many weeks.

This time the gathering was very different.  While we all tried to make it “normal,” there were no hugs, no kisses and the conversations that we had always came back to one thing, the effects of Corona on our lives.

While I enjoyed being with my family, as being in their company is always the medicine I need, I was sad.  This new phase of life we are all limping through hovers like a dark cloud over every aspect of our lives.

Like most families, opinions on the virus vary from person to person, but we respect each other’s thoughts and yesterday, more than normal, we just accepted those varying opinions.

As I came home from our cook-out, feeling isolated from those I love, missing a hug and kiss, I held tight to the knowledge that although we are separated by six feet, the love we have for one another knows no bounds.

This morning, as I attended Easter Sunday church online, once again the loneliness of our current situation weighed heavy on my soul.  There is no other way to say it, this sucks.

Listening to the service and the music I began to feel a peace in knowing that, as the Preacher said, “there has never been a situation that defeated our God & this one won’t be the first.”

During his sermon, the Pastor laid out the Easter story, but paid special attention to Saturday.  You see, Saturday was the time when there was no hope, our Lord was dead, the world seemed destined to loss.

Using a parallel for today’s circumstances, he equated the times we are now in with that Saturday.  The loneliness, constant bad news we see on our television and computer screens looks hopeless, the despair we feel not knowing when this will end.

But what is different today than that Saturday, more than two-thousand years ago, is we KNOW things will get better.  We KNOW we will move past this and we KNOW we will be able to eventually get back to the lives we once enjoyed.

On that Saturday, so many years ago, the people who walked the land didn’t have that promise, they had to wait until the next day, Sunday….. RESURRECTION SUNDAY, before they saw the real power of our Lord and his greatest miracle.

If you are a believer, that powerful day, when Jesus rose from the grave gives us hope during these dark days.

We will come through this, we will once again hug our loved ones, kiss the cheek of our friends and get back to a life that we once knew.

This Saturday will end, and a new day will dawn.

 

A Decade

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When you think about it, a decade seems like an eternity, ten years, 3,652 days.

But when a date shapes every aspect of your life, sometimes those decades slip by in what seems like an instant.  That’s what the last 10 years have been for me.

Between 4:30 and 5 AM on February 21, 2010, my mom passed away in her sleep.  That moment changed my life forever.

In some ways those 10 years have felt like an eternity, but the hole in my heart, that still causes me to cry without notice still burns fresh and seems like just yesterday.

I was and will always be a mama’s boy, my mama’s baby.  I cherished those roles.

In the decade since my mama passed away, the world has continued on, but without her as part of the day to day, it often doesn’t seem as bright, exciting or joyful.  I miss my mama as much today as I did on February 21, 2010.

As I have been anticipating this milestone, I have thought a lot about what’s happened in the past 10 years…..

  • I won my re-election as a City Commissioner in Lake Park, FL just a couple of weeks after she died.  A job that just a few months later led to me being named acting Mayor after our Town’s Mayor also passed away.
  • I got the best job I have ever had, one that I loved and eventually was promoted to East Coast Marketing Director for a national retail management company.
  • I enjoyed some of the best times of my life, with friends who are “chosen family” on Hawthorne Drive in Lake Park, FL.
  • Chelsea graduated from college.
  • Zach graduated from High School and College.
  • We had family vacations to FL and the Grand Canyon.
  • Daddy lived a number of years at Cannonwood where they took amazing care of him before he passed 5 years later.
  • I moved home to Clayton, she would have LOVED that!
  • I quit my high income, awesome benefits job and started a business with Chelsea, eventually buying her out so she could return to Real-Estate & then starting a brand “Of These Mountains,” which now is becoming its own retail store.
  • Chelsea fell in love with Brett, mama would have liked Brett, even though he is a Georgia Tech fan…. she wouldn’t have liked that part!
  • Hadley Rae came into our lives, twisted us all around her little finger and became the light of all of our eyes.
  • Chelsea and Brett got married, bringing us another bright light into our lives, Jaydynn.
  • Donna stopped teaching and went to work with Sam.  They continued to thrive in Real Estate and other ventures, eventually buying and developing their own RV Park.  Mama loved to camp and she would absolutely love Willow Valley.
  • We got closer to Puddin and Sherry.  Puddin becoming the brother that we always needed.
  • After graduation, Chelsea started her career in Real Estate and now thrives as one of the top salespeople in the county.
  • Zach, graduated college, worked in hospitality in Athens and eventually moved to Atlanta with a wonderful career.
  • Zach fell in love, finding a guy that makes him happy, enriches his life and fits in perfectly with the craziness of the Rumsey family.
  • Chelsea moved into the house I grew up in, has kept the love of that old house in tact and now is raising her family amidst old memories and making her own.
  • I have settled into life back in Clayton nicely.  I have renewed old friendships & made new ones, but most importantly I have a deeper sense of family than I did when I lived away.  We have fun together and our lives intertwine just enough, without being too much, to keep life interesting.
  • We still argue about politics, but just like mama, Donna doesn’t let us do it on holidays or at the dinner table.

As I think about it, there are lots of things that happened since mama left us.  Not everything has been great, but for the most part, I have no doubt that we as a family have lived the example she taught us.  We put family first and try our best to be good citizens and neighbors.

I say mama left us 10 years ago today, her physical body did, but not her spirit, she remains a constant in every aspect of my life.

Rarely does something happen that I don’t think about picking up the phone to talk to her.  I would give my arm to receive just one more hug from her, she was my light and with her passing that light dimmed, but it’s never out.

I know my mama is with me every day, and she has been in every moment I listed above and the thousands not mentioned.  I feel her presence, I just hope I have done her proud.

Ten years seems like a lifetime, until something happens that shakes your life to the core.

I miss my mama.

 

So, How’s Your 2020 So Far…

I started 2020 like most years, sending best wishes, making plans for a new year, yada yada.

During the day, I made a smart-assy Facebook post about the Georgia Game starting too late and at my age I wouldn’t be able to make it through the game.

Yeah, smart-assy comment…….. by 6PM, I was down.  I was in bed, achy, headache, cough, all that loveliness that certainly signified I had the flu.

Next morning, as I am prone to do, I asked the proverbial “what do I have” question on Facebook.  Resounding answer, you’ve got the flu dude, hydrate, rest and stay home.

So for the next week I stayed home, I hydrated and when asked, I said I felt better.  Well that was a big ole lie, but who wants to be the person that others have to worry about.

To make a long story short, being stubborn and not wanting to worry anyone else was dumb and only made things worse.  A week in, I finally contacted my Dr to make an appointment.

At this point, I was having lots of difficulty breathing, spending more and more time asleep, not eating and not functioning.  The next morning, my brother took me to the Dr and within an hour, I was in the ER being checked into the hospital.

No flu, nah I jumped right past that to bilateral pneumonia.

I spent three days in the hospital and am now back home.  It’s going to take some time to get my strength back, but I’ll get there.

One of the things I pride myself on is looking at situations going on in my life and trying to learn from what’s happening.

Now, trust me, I get it, I don’t have ANYTHING figured out, I still make elementary mistakes that leave me confounded on a daily basis.  But, I think I did learn a lesson through this, and I am sure that I am just on chapter one of what I will learn.

I have been pretty fortunate through life to have good health.  I’ve had a couple of minor surgeries and injuries and stuff, but until this, nothing ever serious.

Until these past couple of week’s I have never had a fear that I “wouldn’t make it.”  But when you are struggling just to take your next breath, I can see how things get serious quickly.

I think it is pretty normal to sometimes get complacent with life and I have gotten there.  I remember thinking one day before Christmas, “you know at this point if something happened, I’m good.  I have had a good life, I have the best family on the planet, I have wonderful friends and I have had some awesome adventures…..I’m good.”

I was “good” until laying on an ER gurney I realized, I wasn’t and I realized all I wanted to do was keep breathing…… keep living and get well to see what the next adventure may be.

So, how’s your 2020 so far – mine so far has sucked, but you know what…. that may be exactly what I needed to find out just how awesome 2020 and beyond can be.

I’m gonna keep breathing through it and see what happens.