Grateful Heart – a story of gifts.

Christmas morning we gathered around the living room and exchanged presents.

My pile seemed to get bigger and bigger…and my daughter, Kateley, laughed and said, “Momma,you have the most presents of anyone.”

She was right.

Not just the ones wrapped in shiny paper and tucked into gift sacks.

I had a big pile of those but I also had the sweet, invisible gift of being known and loved by so many and of knowing and loving so many,too.

This year, though, I was especially touched by the gifts I received that showed me how well I was known, not just by my family but also by clients and friends.

One son gave me a big coffee mug etched with the words, “Begin each day with a grateful heart” and I laughed because I often tell him “thank you for being my son” and he’ll shake his head and say, “Yea,sure.” but his green eyes twinkle and he squeezes me so I know he feels that love.

He also gave me the softest blanket throw to cuddle up and read and watch movies with. That son,like me, seeks out the soft fabrics, the texture of things matters to both of us.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

My daughter told me before I opened my gift that Riven had chosen it…I knew then it would be something special.

I busted out laughing when I saw the pink flamingos houseshoes and then winked at my daughter for giving me pajamas to go with them.

I haven’t owned a pair of pajamas in probably 24 years. I prefer sleeping nude, going from a hot bath and barely drying off into cool sheets.

I’ve always kept a tank top and panties handy just in case. My Mema used to fuss at me for sleeping naked, telling me that if the house caught on fire, I’ll be standing outside “naked as a jay bird” and I would tease her back that nobody would be looking at me anyways, they would be watching the fire.

But a few days before Christmas, I had mentioned to my daughter that I probably should get a pair of pajamas soon….because I had been invited to a women’s sleepover and I didn’t have proper attire.

I was heard and I received.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Then 2 packages that clearly looked like canvases were placed in my hands.

One revealed the handprints of my Riven and Luke Everett created during time with their Granny.

The other was a picture of Greg and I dancing at the wedding of our son. Chase and his wife, Lacy, back in May.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Tears sprang to my eyes again as I traced the images of us, gazing at our smiles,the way our eyes were locked on each other and the ease of our bodies.

Back when Greg and I started dating, I told him that loving me came with 3 rules.

1.Never smoke.

2. Never become obese.

3. Always dance.

He kept the first two easily and struggled in the beginning to learn to dance.

Mema took him under her wing and turned that “stiff as a board” guy into a smooth dancer that could take any woman out on the floor with ease.

Dancing was the one thing we did almost every weekend, meeting up with friends at local honky tonks for country music and dancing till the places closed down then getting breakfast at some 24 hour diner.

It was our thing and it was good.

But a few years ago, we stopped dancing…we started drifting apart and we just couldn’t connect- not on any other level, and certainly not the dance floor.

It was noticeable.

We danced well together still from habit and practice but there was no passion, no spontaneously, no laughter. Instead of making eye contact, we looked over each other’s shoulders, scanning the crowd, looking for other dance partners, smiling at strangers, sending off signals that we were clearly not quite connected with each other.

We made mistakes on the dance floor. Stumbled over each other’s feet.

Missed steps. Dropped hands. Fell out of sync.

We got angry and walked away leaving the other standing on the floor. Sometimes we would just grab another partner and show off, spinning around and doing elaborate moves with new partners. It was almost like we were trying to outdo the other.

This picture showed that the connection we had lost was back. It showed that sometimes the right song makes all the difference and if you keep on dancing, maybe, just maybe, it’ll turn into another dance….another chance.

Then, I opened the gift from my oldest son- the one that is deeply rooted in the old West and cowboy life- and found a beautiful fringed purse with a secret- a concealed handgun pocket.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

You see, I love leather fringed coats and I have two that were gifts from my Mema, both are over 20 years old and when I wear them, I feel her embrace around me….but I also feel the eyes of people looking at me.

“That coat gets too much attention…it’s so gaudy!”

Maybe it is..but it reminds me of shopping at Shepler’s and Lone Star Ranch Wear with my family, of saddles and horses, of my Aunt Jane and the Johnson way of life.

My gift from Greg was the last one I opened. He had taken Kateley shopping and together they had chosen my gift.

Black leggings, a soft pink sweater, black booties, a black jacket, and a boho leather bag.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

You see, that’s another history story. My Mom and Mema spoiled me rotten, not just at Christmas but all the time and one of the things they always did shaped me into the woman I am.

You should always receive a whole new outfit to wear on Christmas day.

When my parents were living, we opened gifts on Christmas eve and I would receive so many outfits that both Mema and Momma would wait with anticipation to see which one I would show up wearing the next day.

I see gifts of clothing as gifts of knowing. It is a special intimacy to know the size and style of someone, to look at something and instinctively know.

“This is so perfect, absolutely perfect for them.”

Every year, I’ve received gifts from my clients that show how deeply our relationships have grown…from therapeutic sessions to a mutual kinship.

For the last three years, my clients have made sure I got new cowboy boots. I teased them that one bought the right boot, and the other bought the left, but it’s more than that.

I realize that, as I touch the bodies of these people, I’ve given them glimpses into my soul and they begin to understand me in ways that make me feel known and loved.

Books and calendars, journals, teas, chocolates, blankets, carved wooden bowls for oils, wine openers, paintings and gift cards have been placed in my hands and filled my heart.

Sometimes the gifts have made me feel as if I was the naked one. How could they know me so well when I’m the one touching them and not the other way around?

I have always accepted the gifts with gratitude but one time, I had to give a gift back. I’ve regretted that since then…but at the time, that turquoise,fringed jacket showed that I was known well by one and not by another.

It was absolutely perfect at the perfectly wrong time.

Like my Mema and Momma, I’m a giver of gifts. I love finding things as I’m out and about and knowing instinctively just who it would be perfect for.

I don’t wait for special occasions, for birthdays or holidays, although those do get honored.

Instead, like the women that raised me, I like to give unexpected little presents, ways of making those that share my life feel known and loved.

Sometimes, though, I have to catch myself and hold my horses. It’s one thing to know someone well enough to see something for them and want to get it…and it’s another thing to actually give it.

It could be absolutely perfect at the perfectly wrong time.

I’ve had to learn to give and receive with clarity and intention, to make sure my heart is in the right place, to give and receive with love, with respect and with understanding….the invisible gifts that matter just as much as those that are wrapped in shiny paper and tied with bows.

Giving gifts is an absolutely perfect way of showing a grateful heart..it’s also an absolutely perfect way to find out how well you are known and loved.

I will give.

I will receive.

And I will be grateful for both.

👣💗Jeanna’ Mead

6 33 a.m. 12-30-18

Www.jeannasoul.com

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.

💙👣 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

👣💗 With much gratitude to

Ann Carns, David’s mom.

Her choices and her words have shaped my life.

Whiskey and Wine

Many years have gone by

From one place to another

Small talk every once in a while

Bits and pieces shared here and there

Skimming along the surface

That ragged edge

Where lines cross

And friendship begins

Over whiskey and wine

Takes a long time

Sweet time

For trust to build

From one place to another

Over many years

Time comes to be at a different kind of table

Pouring whiskey and wine

Sharing bits and pieces

Diving below the surface

And seeing that it’ll be alright

To cross that ragged edge

And pour another

Whiskey and wine.

💙👣Jeanna’ Mead

10.18.18. 7:22 a.m

Broken Glass

Some things have to stay

Buried in a place

Where it’s safe

Some things break

Scatter like glass

Leaving pieces

Deep inside

It takes too much

Way too much

To take a chance

Open up the past

Shine any light

Find the pieces

That are embedded inside

Some secrets are better kept

Held within

Safely hidden

Protected from the sting

Wounded yet again

By words instead of hands

Sometimes it’s best

To keep things

Just as it is

Beautiful chaos

Made with broken glass

👣💗Jeanna’ Mead

7 01 a.m. 9-29-18

Www.jeannasoul.com

Simple and Extraordinary

Paulo Coelho: “Be blessed.
The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them”

There were flowers

In a coffee cup

That she would use

Again and again

While remembering

Her friend

There was wine

And desserts

Long talks

Belly laughs

A special stone

Bought from a long ways

That made her feel

Like she was known

It was a lipstick and eye shadow

A hug and a kiss

Sweet text that made her

Feel she had done her best

It was such a simple thing

So extraordinary

And she was wise enough to know

That she was blessed.

👣❤Jeanna’ Mead

7 46 a.m 8-28-18

Www.jeannasoul.com

These Two Men

These two men sit

Outside with me

Comfortable and at ease

Talking about the past

Things they did

Places they had been

I sit there

Looking at them

Reading their lips

Knowing full well

I’m missing some words

But still

I know enough

These two men

Bring me along

Include me in

We have a past

Present and future

I have no doubt

These two men

Hold me close

Don’t leave me out

Remind me of who I am

And when I wonder

If it’s enough

I think about the way

These two men

Sit and talk

With me

And I feel the love

That comes along

From being known

And knowing well

These two men.

👣❤Jeanna’Mead

8 18 a.m. 8-16-16

Www.jeannasoul.com

For Jim and Benjamin..these two men…..