Acting locally in Franklin, TN

This past week, we volunteered as a family at Graceworks Ministries in Franklin. We placed food from the pantry shelves into grocery carts. Those carts will stock the pantries of families throughout Williamson county who are experiencing need. As we filled the grocery carts with food, Max and Zach (our sons) noticed that the pantry was short of several specific items. Our boys really hated having to pass over an empty space on a shelf, especially if it was food that they liked.

It was wonderful to work together as a family to make a difference, especially with an age appropriate task for our children. Afterward, we decided to pass this list of shortages on and encourage you to help fill these specific food needs.

Here’s the list of shortages we noticed: Crackers, Canned evaporated milk, powdered milk, Laundry detergent, liquid dish detergent, Juliced and other drinks, pancake mix and syrup, paper towels, kleenex, toothbrushes, shampoo and conditioner.

The majority of local Publix and Kroger stores have bins for donation or you can take items to Graceworks. They are located at 104 Southeast Parkway, Suite 100, Franklin, TN 37064 / 794-9055 / Graceworks Website

The next time you’re at the grocery store, consider picking up one or more items and dropping them in the bin. If you forget and then remember on your way out of the store, at least look for the bin and make a note of its location. On future trips you might consider making a habit of adding an item or more to your list for the bin each time you stop in for groceries.

If you have another pantry you support, you might see what they are lacking.

Thanks, the Whitler family – Zach, Max, Celia and Ron


What do you pour yourself into? I was out walking Lilly, our dachshund 2 weeks ago. It was quite late and the stars were brilliant. Over our yard In front of me was the Big Dipper, majestic and looming. I have always been able to find the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper because they pour into each other. As I stood in the cold and thought of the new year, I found myself reflecting on the question, “what do I pour myself into?” My mind wandered through some related questions, “What do I allow to be poured into me? What am I passionate about? What captures me, my time, my energy, my money, my ears, my eyes, my attention?”

A few days later on a morning television show, two ladies were talking about new year’s resolution. One mentioned she liked to have a word for the year. Just one word that she focused on all year… and I drifted back to my Big Dipper experience and the word “pour.”

That’s my word for 2009, “pour.” I had coffee with a friend at Starbucks and I mentioned my word. She said, “That’s great” and I asked her what her word might be and after a few moments she smiled and said, “do.” I know her and “do” fits her!

What’s your word for this year? Where are you going to grow, to be passionate, to give, to pour yourself?

During the holidays, Ron and I spoke of looking for ways each week that our family might help someone else. We were looking for something our family could do together. This past week we went to a local food pantry operated by Graceworks Ministries. The folks there were wonderful. As we waited in the lobby for our job to begin, a young mom with her two children sat filling out paper work for aid. Our boys played with her children. I thought of the countless number of people that need a hand during these tough times. Carol, the volunteer coordinator, greeted us and described our job for the day, I knew we were in for a wonderful journey. We worked together filling shopping carts with food that families in need would pick up. Ron and I each worked with one of our sons. Carol talked to us about the families they help and the churches and groups that stock their warehouse she said, “it looks like a lot of food, right?” We gazed at rows of food. Then she said this pretty much has to last until May. We get food from folks to help out, but we’ve already given out more food this year than we did last year. As we walked the isles to fill our carts, Max and I would come up to an area that was empty and he’d say, “Mom what are we gonna do?” “I guess we’ll have to skip it, Max, and go to the next thing.” “Mom, we need to go by the grocery store and tell our friends what they need. People would help if they knew, right?”

So we are gonna send out an email blast to friends in our town and you might do the same in your town. Make a trip to your local food pantry and see what their needs are. I love that Max, Zach, Ron and I experienced it and poured ourselves into an afternoon of compassion. I could have been that mom filling out paper work with my two kids. In our small way, we made a difference for a few families this week.

Last month, I spoke about the loss of my friend, Kathleen Baskin-Ball. I called another friend of mine, Billy Crockett, to tell him about her last days. I remembered an event Billy and I did years ago with Kathleen. After the evening ended, Kathleen said to me, “look Celia, you and Billy must keep writing and singing songs about those on the margins, those hurting, those not seen, those in need. More important than singing, you must go there, go with me to Mexico or to East Dallas, go and experience it yourselves and then you can’t help but share what you have seen. You can’t help but be moved by what you have witnessed. It becomes apart of you and you’re changed. It’s more than just singing, writing, volunteering or giving money. It becomes who you are. It’s no longer theirs or mine, it’s ours.” She was right about a lot of things and she poured herself into a life of practicing what she preached.

I want to live a life in which I pour myself into eternal things, but honestly I fall short day after day. I never went to Mexico with Kathleen, regardless of how many times she invited me. I always had something else I was doing during her trips. I guess I thought, I’d get to it later. I spent 2 whole hours today searching for my favorite winter knit hat. How trivial is that! It’s brown with a color band around the top. If you find it let me know. I miss the mark day after day, but lots of days I’m on my knees surrendering (myself and my hat).

My prayers are for you and I as we embark on the days ahead, that we’d know the gift that is Christ and each other; that we would know the awe and gratitude for creation, for the Creator and that we’d pour ourselves into eternal thing; that we’d look for new ways for our churches, schools, families, ways each of us would turn ourselves toward each other and give selflessly; that we would be light that others not only see but experience.

Shine on friends,


On Unslumping Yourself

In the words of Dr. Seuss “Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

Slump – verb slumped, slumping – To fall or sink suddenly; sag or slouch: slumps A sudden fall or decline. The baseball player went into a slump and struck out 8 times in a row.

We have been playing little league baseball this fall. Well some of us have. Max and Zach are on the same team, the Reds, this year because of their close age. We thought this was a wonderful idea and it has been. There’s less scheduling and less hassle. It’s just more efficient to be on the same team, with the same practices and the same schedule (we were on two different teams last fall). Things were trucking right along. We met the coaches. We met the other parents. The boys got along great and the games began. Max and Zach did well in practice. As the games began a few months ago we all seemed to be having a fine time, until as Max likes to call it (cue the sound effects), “dah, dah, dah… the slump.” It happened suddenly and without warning. It snuck up on us all. One game Max was hitting the ball and then he wasn’t. There was on one single cause, one time he swung too late, one time too early, one time he was too close to the plate, another too far, one time he lifted his head, once he had more of a golf swing than a baseball swing. It’s enough to make a mom go crazy, I tell you. In the middle of Max’s slump, Zach hit a homerun. Through it all it was amazing to watch Max wrestle with, in the car one day he said, “Mom, I’m in a slump!” “Yep,” I said, “what are you gonna do about it?” “Well,” he said, “unslumping is tough, but I know I can and I believe.” Each week he went to practices and games and gave it his best shot. Never getting mad, never envying Zach for his hits, doubles and even the home run. Max kept his head in the game and kept believing. One coach in particular kept encouraging him, “you can do it Max. I know you can.”

And then as soon as it came, it left. This past Tuesday, it happened. We were playing the undefeated Lookouts (named for the Chattanooga, Tennessee minor league team). Max got a hit and off he ran to first base. There was jumping, screaming, cheering, his coach who was pitching came off the mound to congratulate Max (it’s machine pitch, with your own coach loading the pitching machine). It was a moment.

It got me thinking about my own life, about my slumps and about how I get stuck. It creeps up slowly sometimes and in others almost instantly. We think to ourselves, “what in the world have I gotten myself into and how can I get out of this.” Sometimes, that is just it. We cannot. I cannot. I need help. Max needed help, he needed practice, a different stance, a different swing. He needed to listen to advice from his coaches and he needed to keep his eye on the ball. When he stepped up to the plate, he didn’t need to be thinking about all the changes he was making. He needed to naturally trust that he was gonna hit the ball! Most of all he needed to believe he could do it! Ok, I get it. If I were honest, I get it sometimes. I cannot do this on my own. I do need help.

I’m not even sure how to describe my slumps or how to prescribe what is needed, but there are days when I feel a decline, a fall, a sag or a slouch. As Dr. Suess said in “Oh the Places You’ll Go”, “And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

Last night, I was leaving baseball practice, when my cell phone rang. I had forgotten about my book club meeting. It was my turn to bring snacks and, Ugh, I forgot. My friend was calling to say, “hey where are you? We are hungry!” So after a mad dash through the grocery store, I was climbing out of the car with my hands full of sacks of snacks. I was late, I was stressed and my slump had found me again. I wanted to put my pajamas on and go to sleep. As I was climbing out of the car, Zach looked at me with his sweet face and said., “Mom, don’t be embarrassed. It happens. They are you’re friends!” Ok; everyone gets in a slump. Everyone gets bogged down. Everyone gets stuck, forgets something and falls short… everyone.

Some of my un-slumping happens when I go to the beach. Some of it happens when I go for a walk with a friend. Other times an unexpected call or hearing a congregation sing a hymn that’s centuries old at the top of their lungs. Sometimes it happens when I sit in my red chair and read, listen and pray.

This week I got the privilege of hearing Bishop Rueben Job speak about his book, “Three Simple Rules.” They are (1) do no harm, (2) do all the good you can and (3) stay in love with God. For years, he has modeled his life after these simple principals, beginning each day with them and reflecting each night on them. Today I did the same. I sat quietly before the boys woke up and simply opened his book. I have had the books for months, I have picked it up and turned it over. Consider this Prayer at the Beginning of the Day from Bishop Job’s “Three Simple Rules.” “Loving Teacher, come and make your home in our hearts this day. Dwell within us all day long and save us from error or foolish ways. Teach us today to do no harm, to do good, and assist us so that we may stay in loving relationship with you and our neighbor. Help us today to be an answer to another’s prayer so that we may be one of your signs of hope in the world you love.”

Maybe that’s it for me. Instead of concentrating on the slumps of my life, helping others in their slumps, reaching out, cheering for others. I need to keep playing, keep being involved and keep believing. Please know that you are not alone and keep believing that you are amazing. When I turn my attention off of myself and turned toward others, it somehow happens. As Dr. Suess reminds us, “You’ll move mountains. So be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! You’re mountain is waiting. So get on your way!”

On a side note… Zach had his own slump, but pulled out as well. It happens.

Go Reds! Celia

PS Thanks to the Phillies last night for driving home my point about the possibility of unslumping yourself after a 28 year drought.

Lilly Spot Whitler

Lilly the road dog
Lilly the road dog
Lilly joined our family on Christmas 2006. Our younger son Zach wanted a weiner dog and Santa didn’t let us down. Lilly is all dachshund all the time. Her coloring is called Piebald.
When our old dog Blue died, Lilly became the road dog. She no longer needed to stay home so the old dog wouldn’t feel less a part of the family. This is a photo of Lilly at the beach on fall break, taken on 10/19/2008. The dachshund was originally bred in Germany to be a badger hunter. You can see from the sand on her nose that she loved digging in the sand. There were no badgers to be had that day under the white sand of Seagrove in the Florida Panhandle.


One of my favorite sayings is one from my friend Ms Viola Cook. At a spry ninety years old, she says, “the best part of life is living.”

Several nights ago while reading “The Velveteen Rabbit” to Max and Zach I was reminded of this saying. I’ve always loved that story; especially the conversation between the Skin Horse and the little rabbit.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick – out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made, ” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt? Asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, ” he asked, ” or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once, ” said the Skin Horse. ” You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

” Give me my Bunny!” the boy said, ” You mustn’t say that he’s a toy. He isn’t a toy He’s REAL!” When the little Rabbit heard that, he was happy, for he knew that what the Skin Horse had said was true at last. The nursery magic had happened to him, and he was a toy no longer. He was Real, The Boy himself had said it.

I started a conversation about what it means to be real. Max was already asleep–when he gets still he can’t make himself stay awake. Zach like his mama is nocturnal. He doesn’t want to go to sleep because he is afraid he might miss some fun!

“What is real, Zach?” “You know,” he said, “when you’re alive.” “What do you mean Zach?” Like I didn’t get it, he looked at me and said, “Alive… really living.”

OK there’s living and then there’s really living. You know the difference.

* Living is a paycheck. Really living is doing something you love and you can’t believe they pay you for it, working with folks who love what they do, feeling like you are making some kind of a difference and the world is better because of what you do!

* Living is a house. Really living is a home, with 4 loads of cleaned clothes piled up in one laundry basket, loud dinners, and baseball games in the front yard with chairs as bases and everybody runs on everything. I’m sorry and I love you are spoken often, and the kitchen border is some kind of art project made with construction paper, markers and string,

* Living is a boyfriend. Really living is finding the love of your life — someone you want to share all of your life with, someone who doesn’t laugh when the new haircut didn’t turn out exactly like the hairstylist described it, someone who wants to meet your family–really your family–now that’s funny, someone who will get dressed up for a dance, take you to a fancy dinner with stuff on the menu that he can’t pronounce when they would just as soon hold your hand and walk to Dairy Queen for a chocolate dipped ice cream cone.

* Living is someone you know. Really living is having friends — friends who you sit and have coffee with and you laugh till you cry or you start to cry and they try to make you laugh; friends who get you — the no-makeup you and the Oh my what in the world I’m late and I’ve got go and I forget to say good bye late friend. Friends who don’t need to speak when yu are together for you to know how loved you are.

* Living is the perfect family picture for Christmas on the mantle. Really living is your real family — mom and dad, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, neighbors and friends who are family… people who get your mess, who you have to text and say what did you mean by that? People who walk through the fire with you, who come over to eat birthday cake when no one else does… who help get our splinters and who know what real love is and know it can be a mess sometimes.

This kind of love lasts forever as Margery Williams in the Velveteen Rabbit reminds us. The real that once you are real you can’t be unreal again.

May we all get a little nursery magic on us …

Yours, Celia

Thoughts and prayers are with those affected by storms

Blue Whitler

August 18, 1995 – September 15, 2008

We knew we wanted a sheltie and Blue came from a line of champions. We weren’t looking for a show dog. She had a crooked tail, and the breeder thought it was a flaw. Our veterinarian later told us that it was merely broken in utero. If they’d repaired it early, it wouldn’t have mattered; but again, we weren’t looking for a show dog.

Blue was gentle and a bit timid. In her early years she love to hide under the coffee table and nip at whatever got close. She always scrambled when a plastic remote control hit the ground and that was probably part of the reason she liked that coffee table. As a very young puppy she got car sick once in the back of our jeep wrangler. She wasn’t much for riding after that. Blue was a hot natured girl, her favorite place to snooze was on top of the air conditioner vent in the summer. When our previous dog Smokey died, Blue grieved for several months. The folks at the kennel commented on her grieving. As her hearing faded, she barked when Lilly our puppy barked, though she never knew what she was barking about. She was a great at-home dog. If ever a sheltie could act like an old hound, Blue was the champ. We’ll miss you Blue.

She had some stomach problems and we took her in this morning for lab work. At thirteen years old her kidneys were failing and the outlook wasn’t good. After a long consultation with the vet, we decided that at best we could prolong or delay her suffering. So we picked our boys up out of school, had a family meeting and a family prayer and went to spend some time with Blue before helping her on to the next life. We all held her paws and stroked her neck and back as she breathed her last breath. Rest in Peace, Blue.


I recently heard a talk where one of the illustrations was for us to view ourselves with a large sign over our heads. We were to imagine something on it that positively stated who we are. I thought about what my sign might say. The speaker essentially was saying that we become what we believe about ourselves. Last month I went to asummer evening gathering of women and again was told to look in the mirror everyday and to tell myself, “you are loved and you can do whatever is before you today.” Have you thought about how you see yourself? While talking to a friend about these thoughts, she mentioned that she sees herself with extra weight, more wrinkles and grayer hair. As she continued, I said “Are you kidding? What I see is your smile, your laugh and your light. I see you through the eyes of love.”

How can we all write on our signs those kind of things about ourselves that would reflect how God sees us and how we see ourselves through the eyes of love? I think my sign would be a mixture of who I believe myself to be and and how I want to view myself, something like,”I am loved and unsure and joyous and scared and blessed” All of it crammed into one sign.

In addition to working on my next book, this summer we are pretty much at home and we are teaching swimming lessons to preschool and elementary children at home with Max and Zach, covered with bugspray and sunscreen, saying over and over again, “you can do it, put your face in the water, reach and pull with your arms!” Most are beginning swimmers, with signs saying “I’m afraid.” One little precious boy, during his first time ever in swimming lessons, when asked to put his face in the water, said “That too tary!”(scary) During his last lesson after he put his face in, he laughed. What a journey from beginning 8 days ago, at 11 AM his sign said, ” that too tary,” and today, “I can do it!” What I know made the difference is Ron’s arms under him, holding him and telling him repeatedly, “I’ve got you and I’m not gonna let go of you.” Doesn’t matter what I allow on my sign, I do feel loving arms around me.

While at the grocery store in the produce I knocked over a box of cookies in a plastic container. Cookies went everywhere. As my son Zach and I began to pick them up — one of the deli workers just appeared and said, “I’ll take these ma’am.” “Oh no,” I quickly replied, “I’ll pick them up and please let me pay for them.” My sign said, “I’m embarrassed and I want to leave.” Apparently not. as she smiled. and said, “Don’t worry about it.” As we headed toward the bread aisle. I looked at Zach and said, “I don’t know why stuff like that bothers me, I just feel so embarrassed, I was moving too fast’.” Zach interrupted, “mommy, mommy, it’s okay it happens.” He took my hand and something changed, really changed. I was lifted. The problem was not gone, there were cookies everywhere. But there was another reality, of it’s ok — more importantly — I’m ok. I am ok and all that is in front of me that seems too tary is not too tary. I am known, I am loved and most importantly I am not alone.

Before I take my first step of the day, I started sitting up on the side of the bed in the morning. I put my feet on the floor in front of me and I say to myself “I’m living, I’m loveable, I am loved and I am not alone.” I also spell the ABCs with my feet. (When I ran I got fasciitis in my right foot and that was my runners’ re-hab.) I say to God help me let go of today, I give it to you.

Say it with me… “Today, I’m living, I’m loveable, I am loved and I amnot alone” There is nothing too tary, that today I cannot face!

Have a cookie today, I am gonna let go of today and see what happens


Scripture, Romans 8:28 — We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

P.S. Congrats to Tanner 5 1/2 who passed the swimming test that consisted of swimming a lap in the Olympic sized pool and treading water for 30 seconds, so that she could go down the big blue slide at the YMCA all summer long! Way to go!

To Rachel 18, in NY who graduated this June, Congrats! My text message to her on her last day of high school was “The best thing you could have learned is how loved you are, how special you are and how all things are possible.”

You both did it and we knew you could!

apple trees

Consider the lillies… (or the Apple trees for that matter) — Matt 6:28b

So I’ve go these apple trees in my front yard–four of them. They are too small to climb and they have only produced apples one of the seven years we have lived here. That was the year my dad stayed with us. He was 79 and my mom had just died. He visited us for three months and one day he said, “we need to work on your apple trees.” I do not have a green thumb was my first thought. I love to grow things, but things don’t love to grow for me. My dad always had a garden. He planted strawberries one year, always tomatoes, a pear tree one year and then there were his flowers. One place we lived had a two acre lot and he planted 50 different types of roses. My favorite were the kind that had a sweet fragrance. He said his favorite was Queen Elizabeth. I took flowers to school every week. If I was ever the teacher’s pet, it was because of my dad’s flowers. I also loved his pansies. They were dark purple with yellow accents.

My apple trees were not in the same category as his plants. Mine had spots and not just a few little spots–spots on almost every leaf. The trees were unruly and he said they needed to be pruned every year. They just needed a little care. I’m not big on pruning. I get my hair cut every 4 months whether it needs it or not. I’m not big on upkeep–I need plants that thrive on neglect. If they make it, they can stay. That philosophy didn’t go over too well with my dad, so we pruned. We watered and we went to the local hardware store to buy something to put on the leaves for the spots. It was maybe a fungus, a virus or some type of bug. Who cares what it is. I was sure we could not get rid of it, but he was determined to leave those apple trees in better shape than he found them and he gave it his best try. I laughed at the store. When we got to the pesticides isle, they all had warnings on them. I thought these might not be safe. Then I thought he’s almost 80, what harm can they do. So off we went with our bag of, let’s just say some form of poison. Dad used my cooking funnel and a mixing bowl to mix the ingredients. I threw that funnel and bowl in the trash that night. No need to try to salvage those. We hauled off 6 large black trash bags of pruned limbs. We sprayed and then we waited. Slowly over months, small sprouts began to appear. The day my dad had his final heart attack that left him bedridden for 6 weeks before his death, he was working on my apple trees. He loved the outdoors and loved to have his hands in nature. I love that he got to spend time at my home in that way.

After his death I came home from his memorial service to find those trees brimming with small apples. I kept the boys (aged 3 and 1 1/2) away from them most of the summer and remember Dad saying early September would be a great month to pick them if the birds haven’t gotten all of them. Those apples grew and grew despite me. One day Ron and I went out for the day in the middle of the summer and left the boys with a baby-sitter. When we came home, in their wagon were my dad’s apples. I was so shook. I’m not sure why those apples represented my dad’s time with me. More than our work together, they represented hope The possibility in life, even when things seem impossible, and somehow the possibility in me even me with my not-so-green thumb. It doesn’t make sense that I can grew something when something had not grown before. I sat on the front porch and cried as the boys proudly showed me their apples. I got my camera and began to laugh as they dumped them all on the ground too green to eat. Max said, “Mommy why are you crying?” Ron explained that the apples were not ready to pick. So the boys said simply, “we’ll put them back, someone get the tape.” It is funny how many things just can’t go back and sometimes it’s okay. Sometimes it’s better than okay.

September came and went and those apple trees have not born one apple since. It’s been 5 years and I’ve wondered should we just cut them down and replace them with something else. What good are they? I don’t have the energy to prune them, water them, love on them and they have not done a thing until… now. This week they have apples and a lot of apples, more than I have seen and on every tree, on every branch almost. I’m left wondering why. I so don’t deserve apples. I have not given those trees one thought much less any attention, but that ‘s when a story gets good isn’t it, when something happens that‘s unexpected, that’s not planned, that’s not deserved, that’s not explainable. My dad and I dreamed of what we’d do with those apples…apple pie, apple cider, apple sauce, apple butter. We would have so many he said we’d need to bag them and give them away to friends. Maybe we could eat them on the porch with boys. We would laugh and dream. I am thinking maybe this September we will do that. You never know if the birds don’t get them or the boys don’t use them during a battle while playing near the trees one day. You wait, you just might be having some apples come your way. So don’t worry about what you’re going to eat, or drink, or wear.

Apples, my apples. Who would have guessed, not me.

Matt. 6:25-31 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you —you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’


When I was eight everything was possible. I thought I could run faster, and I could. I thought there would never be a time when I wouldn’t try things and that time has come. I believed that all people are good and I have had occasion to wonder and even question that fact. I played with friends and thought those close to me then would be close to me forever. I know where only a few of those folks are today and I smile even thinking of them now. We were innocent. We were young. We were carefree. We loved, laughed outloud. ate ice cream when we wanted. drank Icees when we wanted, slept in during In the summer we watched cartoons early Saturday mornings, went to the fair every year, flirted with boys because it was fun, made wishes, believed dreams came true, said our prayers and all before bathtime and lights out. We played together and didn’t care who lived on which side of the tracks. We held hands during recess and skipped. We still played dress up with our mom’s clothes and shoes and makeup when they weren’t looking and pretended we knew what it would be like to be grown up. I had no clue.

I loved us and all the lessons we taught each other. Riding on your best friends handle bars down a steep hill should be avoided at all costs. The feeling of drowning is no fun and that feeling that you’ll never breathe again is something you put our of your head. That feeling returns when you’re a teenager and someone breaks you heart–you remember how it feels to be drowning all over again. We shared, really because we liked to share. The joy of giving what I had to my best friend and seeing her face–money can’t buy that. It’s priceless, really. We jumped off of things and didn’t think at the the time we’d get hurt, until an ankle sprain. I learned how long it takes to heal. Later I learned it again and again–healing seems to takes forever. We can spend our whole lives healing from something, even if we’ve made peace with the hurt. Some prayers don’t get answered, but I believe all prayers are heard. Fear is overridden by desire and joy is found in the smallest places.

I caught every living thing in my back yard and I treasured the world around me. The trees were my playrooms and my bike could take me anywhere. With coins in my pocket I’d head downtown to the library and get lost in a book that would take me to places I couldn’t pronounce, much less dream up. Next I’d ride to the drugstore for fudge ripple ice cream on a sugar cone and buy a Richie Rich comic book. Then I’d ride down past the cemetary to the creek and swim–that’s crazy huh. I’d catch tadpoles and fireflies. Then I’d head back home and play tag with my neightbors until it was dark. Finally and only at the last hour, I would go back inside for a quick bite, most of which I would sneak to the dog under the table. Then it was bath time. I made shampoo supported mohawks. After a quick bedtime story made up by my dad, I was off to sleep. I was still afraid of the dark at eight.. after a kiss goodnight, I’d check under the bed for the creatures and in the closet. I’d pull the curtains closed, hold a stuffed animal tightly. and head under the covers. I was right to be scared of things. There are things to be scared of. Some nights I was frozen–no trapped by fear, not most nights, but enough to remember. I’d whisper a few words under my breath and I was off to sleep. Now that I think of it, those creatures never surfaced. They were in my head, not in my room. Isn’t that the way it is? We have to be careful what we let have it’s way with our thoughts. Most nights the good prevailed. I dreamed when I was eight. Seldom did I remember my dreams, but I loved to dream about playing with dolphins somewhere exotic. Dream land was very different from my surroundings. That is still true today, but I still believe that anything is possible.

It’s all how you look at it. An eight year old sees with eyes that are still open and there are days when I long for that view. Even if I could go back and whisper some of the things I’ve learned and realized along the journey to that girl, she might laugh until she cried or she’d cry until she laughed. She wouldn’t, couldn’t believe me. She’d have to see it with her own eyes. That’s just what I have lived. Here’s to eight. Really in a word, it was great. Don’t ever stop being eight. Don’t forget to buy a snowcone this summer, bubble gum’s my favorite flavor and it turns your tongue blue–who doesn’t like that!

Max turns eight today… May 16, 2008 eat some birthday cake… 2 slices!