One Thin Slice

In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, Mema and Momma cleaned the house from top to bottom. Mema dug out the Thanksgiving tablecloths and napkins and her heavy gold flatware.

We rearranged all the furniture to make room for extra tables to hold all the food.

With 22 family members coming, Thanksgiving was a special time.

A long dessert table draped with a beautiful lace tablecloth was placed along the wall in the den. Another long table went in front of the large picture window, close to all the electrical outlets so the warming plates could be plugged in.

Mema spent hours going through familiar cookbooks and scraps of yellowed clippings piled high in boxes,trying to decide what dishes to make this year.

Eggplant casserole, sweet potatoe casserole, green bean casserole-all those were on the “must have” list.

Mashed potatoes and gravy,turkey and dressing,cranberry relish and deviled eggs…the list grew longer.

Momma,on the other hand,knew all her recipes by heart- she never had to look at a recipe because her cakes and cookies were “hers.”

She had made them for every holiday for so long that they were engraved in her memory. She made chocolate fudge sheet cake,prune cake,cowboy cookies and tea cake cookies from scratch.

Momma baked the chocolate pecan pie and Mema made the “regular” pecan pie, German chocolate cake and all the “whipped topping” pies-chocolate,lemon,buttermilk custard.

Three days before Thanksgiving,with all the final choices made and list n in hand, Mema, Momma and I went to the grocery store.

My job was to hold the list and check off everything as we walked along the aisles and to make sure we didn’t leave the store without some essential ingredient.

When we all got back home,the groceries were spread out; butter and eggs,vanilla and cocoa, sugar and spices to one side.

All the canned goods were stacked together;the recipes were laid on top. The turkey was put in the garage fridge to thaw.

Finally, the day before Thanksgiving arrived.

Mema and Momma woke early and began baking all the desserts. The aroma of Brown sugar and cloves filled the house. Chocolate fudge simmered on the stove,cookies were rolled and baked and laid on wax paper, and pie after pie cooled on the table.

The cakes were frosted,the fruit salad chilled, the banana pudding cooked and placed in the fridge.

We laid all the desserts on the special table that was reserved for them; beautiful pies with golden meringue toppings, three layered German chocolate cake under a glass dome, a white coconut cake, Momma’s chocolate sheet cake in a long pan,the prune cake on n the tall platter, tins filled with cookies, pecan pies lined up side by side.

It all looked absolutely beautiful, perfectly arranged,uncut, untouched and ready for the Thanksgiving guests.

But Daddy had his own Thanksgiving tradition.

When Mema and Momma were not looking, Daddy would sneak over to the dessert table and cut the tiniest,thinnest slice out of every cake and pie. He would load up his plate and eat every last bite.

He always said he had to try them out first, to make sure they were good enough for everyone else.

Mema and Momma would get so aggravated with him and try to convince him to wait so that the dessert table would look prettier when everyone showed up on Thanksgiving day, but he never listened. He always cut that tiny slice from everything he wanted.

Daddy died 14 years ago. Ever since that last Thanksgiving with daddy, the dessert table has been perfect when all the guests arrive. All the pies and cakes are still whole and everything looks like it should be in a home cooking magazine. But for Mema, Momma and me and the rest of the family, we would rather there be a thin slice taken from every cake and pie.

πŸ’™πŸ‘£ This was my first published column for the Dallas Morning News on Thanksgiving day of 2004.

Momma went to bake in heaven that year and Mema joined them in 2009.

It’s now been 25 years since my Daddy took the thinnest,tiniest slice but we remember well how that house on Sharpview Lane was filled with love and laughter on Thanksgiving day and we are grateful.

I still have the recipes and the cookbooks and my daughter carries on the traditions of baking everything from scratch just like Mema and Momma.

Ann’s Choice

When I was 16 years old, I had a boyfriend, David, with an incredible mom that made a lifelong impact on me.

One afternoon I was invited to a cookout at the backyard of their house in Dallas, and David’s dad was there as well.

I had never seen a divorced couple on good terms in my life. Here they were, ex-husband and wife, acting respectful and considerate, even laughing and joking around with each other and their sons.

I watched and listened, half expecting it to fall apart and things to get ugly and for David’s parents to start acting like all the other divorced people I knew.

Every other divorced couple I knew held such anger, such disrespect, such intolerance for each other.

I was used to divorced couples that couldn’t even be in the same building without all hell breaking loose much less the same house.

They would hurl accusations and talk about each other in such a way that I couldn’t imagine how they had ever once loved and lived together.

My Mema’s friends would sit at the kitchen table, giving a play-by-play of every wrong ever committed by the ex-husband. I would hear stories that made me almost swear I would never trust love.

There was just so much hated-pure and simple- and vengeance between every divorced couple I knew of.

Until I knew David and his mom,Ann.

After the cookout was over, I told David that I was really surprised at how everything went with his parents. He smiled and said, “You should tell my mom this.”

I walked over to Ann and asked her how it was that they got along so well after the divorce and exactly what made them different from everyone else.

She sat me down at the picnic table, looked straight at me and said, “I made a choice. We made a choice.”

Her words became engraved into my heart that day. Simple,profound, beautiful words.

“I made a choice.”

Ann then explained,talking to me as if I was a woman and not just some silly, nosey 16 year old girl.

“We fell in love years ago, we got married and we had two children together. We chose each other back then. We saw good things in each other and we wanted to be with each other.”

I nodded my head, listening to her, reading her lips, fully aware that this wasn’t an ordinary conversation.

“If I choose to talk bad about David’s dad, then I’m also talking bad about myself….because I chose him. I fell in love with him, married him, had children with him….what does that say about me?”

I’m so stunned by this revelation, by the way she’s talking to me in a gentle,firm voice that I just sit there, giving her my full attention.

“Another thing, these boys are half of me, half of him…if we talk bad about each other..then we are also talking bad about our sons. We chose to have these two sons, and now we need to continue to choose to see the good in each other and in our sons.”

Choosing. Choices. Continue.

“It hasn’t always been easy and we are not perfect by any means but the important thing is that everyday we make the best choices we can and that includes choosing to see the good and the love we once shared and still have for our sons instead of the differences and what went wrong in our marriage.”

Imperfect but important.

Good outweighs bad.

Love can change.

I decided then and there that if I ever decided to get married and if I got divorced, that I would follow Ann’s example and choose to live after a divorce the way she did instead of how I had seen others live.

It just made so much sense to me as a naive 16 year old girl.

Over the years, as my friends married and divorced, I would tell them the story of Ann and encourage them to make choices that showed love and compassion, understanding and respect for what once was and what could now be.

My friends would chide me and say, “Well,that’s easy for you to say when you haven’t been in this situation..it’s different when it’s your choice.”

They had a point. We never really know how we will handle things until we have to walk the line.

Ann’s words hit particularly hard in 2015 when my own marriage began to fall apart. I had to dig deep to make the choice to continue to love, to see the good and be willing to let go with grace and accept changes if it was meant to be.

Choose. Love. Change. Continue.

During those dark days while we danced on the ragged edge of reconciliation and separation, we talked about choosing to still be good to each other for the sake of our children and because it was the right choice to make.

Our marriage survived and that time gave me a greater understanding of the depths of how much Ann had gone through as a woman and a mother to wrestle with her own emotions to use good sense and knowledge to make the best choices for the long run.

Several weeks ago, another friend sent me a text.

“I got served divorce papers this morning.”

When he came by to see me, I told him to about Ann’s choices and he said, “I hope we can do that..I think I can, I would like to anyway.”

Hope. Desire. Choose.

In the midst of pain, in the chaos of change, in the sweet by and by, in each and every moment, we make choices.

We can choose to remember the good, let go of the bad and watch how love changes.

We can choose to sit across from a 16 year old girl and share with her wisdom that she’ll spend a lifetime pondering.

We can choose to reach across the table,across the barriers, across the ragged edge and find a way to bridge the differences, connect on another level and love in different ways.

We can choose to give and to receive compassion, understanding,forgiveness, and grace. We can choose to laugh again.

That was Ann’s choice. It is my choice. It can be yours.

Jeanna’ Mead

8 33 a.m. 11-4-18

Www.jeannasoul.com

πŸ‘£πŸ’— With much gratitude to

Ann Carns, David’s mom.

Her choices and her words have shaped my life.

People,Paulo, Perspective

Paulo Coelho wrote- “No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone.

That is the true experience of freedom and loyalty.”

These words stuck a chord with me and I  pondered the depth and scope of what it means to lose, to own, to love, to understand and to have freedom. It wasn’t enough for me to be content with my own rambling thoughts so I asked a few people to read Paulo’s quote and share their own perspective.

 As always,when I ask…I receive back so much more and, once again, my eyes were opened to see the incredible insight and wisdom that others have.

“It makes me think of passing trees in a forest during a walk- I may stop and rest in the shade, or seek shelter from a sudden storm, admire its leaves or climb it’s branches, but it is not mine. The experience of kinship and admiration of it’s beauty is all I can claim to own.”

Her response came as I was walking around a farm that belonged to my family. I stood underneath a huge tree with a trunk so wide and thick that 3 people could wrap their arms around it and still just touch fingertips. The branches reached high towards the heavens and offered  such a breathtaking  shade canopy…and as I read my friends words again and again, I couldn’t help but think that is such a profound way of looking at  Paulo’s words.

Every tree,like every person, is unique and some grow deep,strong roots and have a wide reach while others just never seem to grow and bloom.  The trees in the forest and the farm were left alone- battered by the storms, warmed by the sun, soaked by the rain and they grew…much like people that let the experiences of life make them strong, gracious and beautiful.


However, I’ve always noticed that trees planted to look perfectly coordinated with the landscape, constantly pruned and clipped never seem quite as beautiful, strong , graceful or “real” as the trees that grow wild and free. Those ornamental trees take so much time and effort to keep in their “proper” place and their growth is stunted because they are owned by people that want the trees to appear a certain way, be a certain size and shape and do a certain thing.


Isn’t that like relationships? When someone tries to “own” another person- to control their growth,to prune their branches, to make them be “just so” then the relationship never really reaches high or grows deep, it doesn’t weather the storms well and it becomes so much less than it could be.

Yet when a person and a tree has freedom, the strength and beauty that grows is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.

Another wise friend wrote this;
“No one owns anyone;the attempt is controlling and abusive. We should all feel like we are freely there in therelationship. And yes, that is the true experience of freedom and loyalty, but what Paulo says belies the pain of a lost relationship if it ends. That is some of the most intense pain.”

Which again made me think of trees and of birds.The huge variety of birds has always amazed me and I’ve read that every bird sounds different, too, with distinct songs and calls. I love seeing birds outside but whenever I see one in a cage, my heart just aches and yet I know that these types of birds are bred- pruned- for the purpose of looking pretty in their gilded cages, singing the only song they can, mimicking the words spoken to them. They have never experienced freedom and couldn’t survive if they were free to fly. They can only live if they are owned.

Some people want and need relationships like this. Maybe their past has cast such a long shadow that it covers their present and future with the flickers of pain and the only way they can give and accept love is with certain conditions- cages that lock others out and them inside.

They are so afraid of losing love, that they limit love and sometimes, they wind up losing the very thing they’ve tried so hard to hold tight.

It’s a type of control that makes sure the person, like an ornamental tree, stays right where it’s supposed to and looks as good as possible to everyone that comes around.

Yet, a long time friend shared this, “Rather than focusing upon the thought of possibly losing someone, perhaps I should focus upon gratitude for each moment that they choose to share their wonderful life with me.”

What if we took that perspective of his to heart? What if we loved deeply with gratitude that we have this moment, this opportunity, this person that chooses to love us back? What if we recognized love in all different forms..just as we see the beauty and purpose of all the trees in the woods and marvel at the numerous species of birds?

What if we were grateful for the time we had instead of regretting the time we’ve lost or worrying about how much time we might have left?

Maybe being “owned” is really what another wise man wrote in reply to my request. “It’s an undeniable truth when it comes to people. No one is truly owned by another, although it can feel like it. We give much to those we love, it might feel like a mutual agreement of ownership. But the ones we truly love and\or yearn for are the ones who have ‘ownership’ of us.”

Just as I love this place where I’ve built my massage business and consider it “mine” in so many ways, the truth of the matter is that I didn’t plant a single tree that brings me such joy..I can only be grateful that someone else did many years ago.  I have planted flowers that will return year after year- growing more abundantly each time. I’ve loved this place deeply but I do not own it and when I leave, it’ll still be a part of me; carved into my heart and I’ll  yearn for the patio and the peacefulness it gives me each day.

That’s also how I think of these people that shared their deepest thoughts with me. We don’t own each other but, in our special ways, we love and share and, in doing so, claim a mutual ownership of freedom and loyalty and as my friend said,

“There are definitely people I really miss,but that doesn’t diminish the joy of those I am with.”


If we can just ponder Paulo and put things into perspective maybe we’ll experience love the way it’s intended to be and we’ll offer shade, shelter, protection, and purpose to all those that we come to know and to love. 

πŸ‘£πŸ’—Jeanna’  Mead

6 54 p.m. 5-30-18

http://www.jeannasoul.com

Missing Pieces

I placed a 550 piece puzzle on the coffee table at my massage studio and encouraged the clients that were waiting to put it together, to find the pieces and fit them into place, to search and seek and to use their mind and hands in a productive, creative way.

After a week, I came out of session to see the puzzle completed….as best as it could be.  Four pieces of the puzzle were missing, so I got on my hands and knees and searched for the wayward pieces.

I found two pieces which I quickly put where they belonged and then I swept under the furniture and looked underneath the cushions of the chairs and couch but the missing pieces were not to be found.

My original plan had been to glue and frame the puzzle and use it for art on the walls of the studio, but the missing pieces made me change my plan.  but then….it hit me right in my heart of hearts.
Things don’t have to be complete to be beautiful. Life isn’t perfect and all the pieces don’t always fit in all nice and neat.

 Everything doesn’t always fall into place and yet….there is beauty in the brokenness, in the vintage treasures,in the imperfections and in the space.
I don’t have to hear everything in order to understand the intention of what is said. I lip read and even at my best, there are still times I miss words and just fill in the blanks with my imagination…and sometimes that’s even better….or worse.

 I also use AVA, the Audio Visual Accessibility app,  to help me catch what people say.
Often my hearing friends stare at AVA and find flaws…they see the things AVA misunderstands,the parts that are muddled, the missing phases, the words that weren’t spoken…and they shake their heads and question the reliability and purpose of AVA.

However, I see AVA with different eyes than they do and my perspective changes theirs.

AVA gives me more than I have ever had, it gives me glimpses of conversations that I would have never caught, pieces of lyrics, words from people as they pass by, random bits and pieces that hearing people take for granted.

AVA lets “overhear”..eavesdrop,if you will call it that…all the things I’ve never been able to understand. I hold AVA while at soccer games and finally have a clue to what the other parents are laughing about. 

I sit AVA on the counter as I check out at Kroger and read the flirtatious batter between the teenage cashier and the sacker.

Of course I don’t get every single word but I get more than I’ve ever had before in my life.

Another thing that came to mind as I looked at the puzzle with the missing pieces is relationships.

So often we expect another person to completely fill every need and want we have.We expect our loved ones to read our minds and fulfill all our desires. 

Then if that doesn’t happen,we get disappointed, angry and hurt and throw up our hands and knock the puzzle to the floor, so to speak.

If all the “pieces” of our relationship don’t fit, match up perfectly, or look as good as we think it should, then we tend to overlook all the other pieces that do.

Isn’t that tragic? Instead of seeing the parts that are good. the focus centers on what isn’t. Instead of exclaiming over the beauty, the attention falls on the imperfections.

It’s as if it’s an incomplete puzzle that must be broken apart and put back in the box, stuck in the shelf of a closet until maybe,just maybe the other pieces show up.

I wonder,though, what it would be like if we overlooked the missing  pieces and choose to see the big picture….to use our imagination to fill in the empty spaces with love and grace and a sense of humor….

Like this puzzle I had at the studio…look closely and you’ll see the bird in flight, the cat, the intricate designs and brilliant colors….and if you focus on those, you’ll find that the missing pieces just seem to fade into the background and not make much difference at all.

That’s how I choose to see life..as a gigantic puzzle with several pieces that just don’t fit and it’s all the more beautiful because of it and that’s how I see AVA…it’s another puzzle that is absolutely beautiful in my eyes.

We are puzzles ourselves..incomplete,complicated,and beautifully designed….and we all have missing pieces….and that’s perfectly okay.

Flowers and Faith

Yesterday,my client was running just a few minutes late which gave me time to walk outside and look at the flowerbeds and the empty pots. I stood there in the front yard, and adjusted the single pot of pansies, and picked up the picture that had the saying, “Life is a journey..enjoy it.” engraved on it then I walked to the back patio and gazed at the yard and the bare trees and felt the familiar tinge in my heart- the call of nature, the urge to plant and be filled with the peace that comes to me every time I am doing what I love.

Since I had found out that I would need to find another place for my business, Rockwall Body and Soul Massage, soon, I had made a conscious decision to step away from my beloved patio and not to purchase the patio sectional that I had wanted or plant new flowers.  “It’s not going to be yours much longer,” I reminded myself, “Let it go, let it all go.”

When my client arrived, we chatted just a few minutes and then I started his session. moving my hards, gazing out the window, letting my mind focus on what I love to do and as I was working on him, I felt as if God was speaking to me, a whisper of assurance,
“Plant flowers, Jeanna’, plant flowers here.”  and then again, “Go ahead, buy that patio furniture you want.  Have faith.  Believe that there will be a place for you. ”

Believe. Faith. Plant.  Go  Ahead.

Tears sprung in my eyes. This is what I needed to hear, to feel– that deep, down assurance, that powerful boost of courage and conviction that didn’t always fit logic but that had always been my guide- God speaking to me.. and my intution kicking in.

I decided right then and there that I would go to Lowe’s after my last session and buy a few flowers and check out the sectionals. During my gap between clients, I jumped in my car and drive over to Greg’s office to share what I had experienced with him and he just smiled at me and told me to go ahead and do what I felt I was told to do.

My next stop was to Tuesday Morning where I went in with the intention to get a birthday gift, gift boxes and tissue paper but, like  always, I rambled over to the garden section and then to the wall decor and there was another sign, waiting for me .

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  Simple black letters on a glass pane spoke further truth to my soul.   I held those words in my hands for just a few seconds but they made their mark on my heart.

I found some small garden stones inscribed with e words that I was searching for – a blue one with “love” and two white ones, one with “faith” and one with “believe”  and I felt as if this was all coming together in ways that I had not expected.

Saturday morning of March 3, I planted lantana and placed the stone with  “BELIEVE” in the middle of the blooms and then I placed “FAITH” in a pot  filled with red dianthus  and I laid the stone of  “LOVE”  right by the front door where everyone that walks up will see it and maybe, just maybe they will feel it.

This is one of those times that I just lmow that I am doing the right thing and another thought keeps running through my head, “It is mine, until it is not.”

It is mine… until it is not.  It is until it is not.

Let this sink in for a moment. Ponder these words.  “It is mine, until it is not.”

This house where I operate my massage studio is still mine, until it is not, and I am going to leave it better than I found it, but most importantly, until the day comes that I no longer have a key, I will fill the place with my presence, with love, with faith, with attention to detail and yes, with red, yellow, pink and purple flowers.  I will choose to decorate, to create and to make memories.  It is still mine, after all and it is a reflection of who I am and what I want to be known for.but

Maybe this is something that we all need to give some real consideration to. what we have is only ours until it is not…and during that time- no matter how brief or how long- we need to make the most of it.  We aren’t guaranteed anything but yet we have enough faith to develop friendships, we have enough courage to start a business, enough love to pursue somone and we believe enough to plant flowers and create gardens.

All these words, all these thoughts, all these choices and one thing I know for sure is that whatever happens, wherever I go, whatever I do, it is my chance,  my choice,and only mine until it is not and I want to be known for love, for faith, for believing and for having the courage to listen to the whisper of God and go ahead, to chase my dreams and follow my intuition and to love who I am with and where I am, as long as I can.

It is mine,after all, until it is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This Is What It Looks Like

I hear it all the time, ” You don’t look your age,” and I have always just smiled and took it for a compliment but yesterday I got to thinking .. and I realized something about what that meant.

This is what it looks like.

There ya go. That is it.   Isn’t this something that stops us in our tracks .. keeps us from doing what we want … those words…. “what it looks like” holds us captive, doesn’t it?

I know so good and well what those words do to people and to me.

“This is what it looks like.”

As a woman with a severe hearing loss, I have to be careful -all the time- that I don’t stand too close to someone and give the wrong impression.. because of “what it looks like”  to others that may not realize that I am trying to read lips.   Sometimes when I am with those that know me well, I forget to be mindful of “what it looks like” to those outside my tribe untill I see that all-too-familiar look in their eyes that gives away the thoughts that crosses their mind over and over again.. “what does this look like,what will people think?”

So I back off a few steps and I tuck my hands in my pockets or cross my arms, to hold back my natural tendency to touch as I speak and lay my hands on someone while I’m listening. 

After all, I get it, really, I do. 
 We live in a culture that is so visual, so hooked so social norms, on fitting into perfect places and leaving nothing to chance, to be open to interpretation. 

It is so much easier when things look like we think they should… even when they aren’t.

A good example happened to me again today.  While checking out at Target, I walked out without one of my sacks and loaded my car.  This young guy came up and tapped me on   the shoulder and said,  “I was calling for you, ma’am, you left this.”  and when I smiled and thanked him and explained that I couldn’t hear him unless he was close enough to touch.. he said something I hear all the time. “That”s okay,but, you don’t look like you have a hearing problem.”

I don’t, do I?

After all, what does someone with a hearing problem look like?  Would a hearing aid give me away or maybe a cochlear implant?  Would it be helpful if the deaf and hearing impaired worn bracelets like the  yellow LIVESTRONG  or the pink Breast Cancer bracelets?   Maybe a little dog-tag on a chain hanging from our necks so that somone will see that and immediately know, “There is one of those deaf people.”

That is what it looks like, after all.

But things are not always what they look like.

That couple you see comparing wines at the grocery store may very well just be strangers sharing a few minutes of laughter and a common ground before  parting ways to never cross paths again.  

But then again, they may be business associates planning The next event.

The older lady sitting alone at the cafe lost in thought may have just lost her husband and that is why she didn’t respond  like she usually does. She isn’t  hard of hearing no matter what it looks like. She hears just fine, thank you very much, but she just wasn’t in the mood to chit-chat just yet.  That exhausted man at the park with the talkative toddler isn’t a divorced dad putting in his mid-week visitation. He wishes it was that simple, but it’s not.  The truth is, he’s been balancing his job, his daughter and a bed-ridden wife for several months now.

But that isn’t what it looks like.

Back to this all over again.  If we are always so concernd about what it looks like instead of what we KNOW and what we feel then we are falling into that very same trap that holds so many back and afraid of stirring the proverbial pot.

I wonder, though, if we stopped thinking so hard about what it looks like and instead just decided to take each situation, each encounter with an open mind and a heart that dares to see beyond what it looks like and  to see what it really is and what it could be.

Maybe, we would stand closer and touch more often. Maybe we would lean forward without second guessing what the people two tables over will think.  Maybe we would strike up a conversation with that guy looking for wine without thinking that it will be inappropiate.  Maybe we would hold hands.. maybe we would ask someone if they would like to have lunch or see if they would like to walk to the square for a drink. Maybe we would get up and dance. Maybe we would stop by and see an old friend again without wondering what it would look like to someone else. Maybe we would regret less and live more.

There aren’t really any easy answers to this and I knew that before I started writing my heart out but I know this much for sure- things are not always what they look like and there is always so much more to know, to discover, to learn.

But this is what it looks like. …..and, yes, I really am this age…this is what it looks like to be this age… when you are me, anyway!