Give Me My Roses While I Live

 

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“It’s an old saying,”  Mama said, her voice coming over the line this morning; ” But I was reminded of it again last month when Daddy and I were on the way to the hospital during his second round of sepsis. He was reacting badly to the antibiotics, and they had shown us the list of possible medicines that might help. That list was dwindling and we knew that if they couldn’t find another antibiotic, we were sunk. We had about an hour to wait before we could go into the hospital and find out. So we sat in the car and held hands and cried. He told me some things he wanted me to know, plans, and sweet words, and I told him some things that I love about him. Life is too short to make big deals out of little things. Y’just thank God that you have someone to pick up after, and if you’re going to make a big deal out of something, it had better be something really big. It’s so much more important, instead, to spend our time and words telling the people in our life what they mean to us, what we love about them. Give them their roses, and give them real roses too! Shoot! I’d rather have mine while I’m alive than when I’m out cold and they won’t mean a thing to me!…My family might enjoy them,” she pondered, “but I wouldn’t care a thing then.”

Several years ago, Mama was encouraging me in the art of Giving Out Roses. Roses of our words – admiration, encouragement. Roses of thankfulness and affirmation. Not flattery, because that’s no good. Does nothing to bolster the soul. But true affection and respect, true words of solid encouragement that reflect the effect that those people have had in your life are always worth giving. Our pathways are showered with experiences, people, words. Some of them hurt, but some of them shape us beautifully. They affect the way we think and treat others; they inspire us to bloom to full potential, like God intended. We are shy little shoots, all of us, needing the sunshine of kindness and goodness that others have to offer, so that we can take heart, and reach beyond the comfort zone of our curled up buds. The loveliness of it all, is that we are extensions of God’s own love, His own warmth, and we are reflecting the joy He has for His children to those to whom we hand roses. It’s not a one time thing, either. We wither swiftly amid the heat of hardship and doubt and someone seeing the admirable in us and pointing it out will always be a shot in the arm. It’s part of our camaraderie as humans, but more so as Christians, to look for the gifts and strengths in others and tell them of it. Tell them how they’ve influenced you.  So many people shape our lives and form our ideas and dreams. As a young girl, the whole of my existence seemed for a season that of simply Soaking Up. Soaking up what it means to be a lady, how to fix hair, dress, how to interact with boys and girls you felt intimidated by. How to paint nails, iron a man’s shirt and pants without creasing it wrong or burning a hole in it; how to cook, deep clean, expand vocabulary, fold that bothersome bottom sheet (still struggling), how to walk, talk, sort through all the changes and decisions of what sort of person you should envision being and shoot for. So many ladies reached out to me – girls my own age, girls older than me, and women who were adept housewives took time to speak encouragement to me. Those women still impact me today.

All that to say, “shower the people you love with love”. Husband, brother, sister, Mama, grandmama, sweet ole gal in the post office who’s feet you know are hurting, but still smiles at you. Your kids, or the kids at church, your brothers and sisters. You are shaping lives, impacting, leaving a force that will either build up or tear down. I’m guilty of one and striving toward the other. But I dare say, there’s someone we can show kindness to, bolster with our words. They’re powerful things, words. They can be swords or roses. Let’s say the things we’ll wish we had said if they weren’t here, leave nothing to regret not telling them. Let’s just give’m their roses while they live, y’all.

 

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Love Story 8.

April, 2014.

There was the front door, I could hear it from my room where I was sweeping. It was a bright yellow room, hung all over with photos, posters, dried roses and notes. It felt on display and I was nervous. “Oh…dear…why is he here? to Examine me? To see if I measure up? Well shucks…Oh lands…it’s humiliating, really, to be looked over like a cow. How dare he think he can do this? Or does he just want to come? Perhaps, but he didn’t say that…” Its creak open, its slam shut…Footsteps from the living room were coming and Daddy’s deep sailor voice booming in waves back to my room “You can take your stuff back there, John B. I think you’ll be in one of those rooms.” Those steps came through the kitchen – Oh, they were mighty big footsteps. Hidden around the corner with a broom frozen in my hand and a pocket full of blazing blushes waiting to burst into my cheeks, I stood until the boots finally brought him into view. It took a minute for my eyes to reach the top of his tallness.  I felt the closing of my throat and an airy lightness in my stomach, my knees felt like jello…“What if I fall over?”  I envisioned me simply toppling forward in front of him and how embarrassing that would be. Instead, I leaned against the wall, for there he was, standing in the school room with his suitcase in hand, and his sleeves rolled up, and…cowboy boots… Out the window went every ounce of trying to pretend I didn’t like him. All the charming wit I could muster was choking out nonchalantly, “Well, look who it is…”  He smiled slowly and looked ridiculously handsome. “Look who it is…?” he repeated back to me, making me realize how very silly of a thing it was to say after all.  He had hazel eyes that were gazing down at me, in an ease and earnestness that was as unsettling as the rest of him. I finished sweeping and the girls wafted him away to bake cookies and test the fiber of this Texan.  We played wahoo that night, and at breakfast the next morning, one thing happened that Daddy still remarks on with a shaking head to this day. “Pass the eggs, who wants a biscuit?” “Moriah, could you get out another thing’a butter from the fridge? Oh and get that peach jam – ” “Mama, is this muscadine or grape jelly?” And plates were being passed around, arms reaching, hands dishing out gravy and bacon and sausage and grits. I sat next to Chris who sat next to Daddy, and on my other side was John Barrett. Across the table, sat Merry. Merry who barely smiled in a photo for 3 years when she was little. Merry who suspects people, and looks through slightly squinted eye, and though she’s short, some how manages to be able to look down her nose at a person whom she highly disdains. It’s not pride; it’s mistrust and solid discretion, and honesty. She sees no need in feigning favor. Merry sat across from us and was passing food and plates and dishing up grits. Out went John Barrett’s hand to help himself to grits and before you could say Jack! there was a splintering “SMACK!” Merry had slapped John Barrett’s hand and the crack of that smack hung in the air as Daddy’s eyes went big and darted to Merry, who sat looking at JB, who had frozen in space and had lifted his eyes to hers. Then Dawn and Merry erupted, and Daddy exclaimed “Merry Emmaline!” And the table fairly shook with laughter. I was more encouraged by this than if she’d been sweetly asking questions. Merry only picks on the ones she likes.

True to his word, Chris did think of something to do while John Barrett visited. He took us shooting down the road at Mr Henderson’s. He’d even set up a course for all of us in the deep pine woods. We shot 22’s and competed against Micah and Merry for who could shoot the most bullseyes with the amount of bullets Chris had given us.Rain had been heavy that spring and again today, drizzles dripped through tall, thin pines, mystifying the woods and drenching the air with the spicy pungency of wet soil and pine needles. We wandered through the woods, John B and I. Down a steep bank there was a tiny stream, which we sat beside and talked a long time. It was easy to talk with him. Effortless, really, and that was hugely refreshing. He broke twigs, and poked them in the damp soil. I watched for minnows and dipped my feet in the cold water. There, with him sitting indian style, playing with moss and rocks and meandering down the trails of thoughtful conversation, I marked the time as one to remember. I wanted to remember the sense of comfort and ease in conversing.  Somewhere between Friday and Saturday I’d forgotten I had been defensive when he’d first arrived.  The notion that he was there to Inspect Me and either approve or disapprove was fear assumptions and certainly not what he had in mind. As we walked back home, we stopped by the barn overlooking the garden. Mr Henderson was a man of the earth. He gardened for the love of it, the wonder of God through it. Long, curved rows lay bare. He’d plant soon and that plot of earth would transform into a beautiful palace of leafed green and immaculate rows. We breathed in the moist earth and he leaned against the barn. “I don’t know yet what will come of this,” he said. “But I do know that you will be a wonderful wife and mother someday, for some man.” He asked if I was comfortable with moving ahead, and I said I was. I felt that I could have said yes then if he’d asked me.

 

 

January Edition

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“My Dear Mrs Watson,” you might say to me, “Judging by the amount you’ve written in the last year, I suppose we might conclude you’re Mighty Industrious at home and care nothing a’tall for these forsaken pages of your fledgling blog.” But I say to you, little blog, I deserve “Neither such praise, nor such censure”, for I’m not so very industrious at home as not to have time to write; neither do I care Nothing A’Tall for these pages, as I do have that sort of hesitation of spirit in writing. For I want to write something Good, and Of Worth, and Resonance to the Heart and Memory. So, I ponder and procrastinate. But I resolved to write once a month this year, and as silence is the Great Barrier, I write to break it, even if it is only to say how pleasant the light of the front room is in the afternoon. How light dances in gold on the floor, and how laughter now reaches down the hall. I remember being alone with a belly full of growing life in our old house – the one before this one – and thinking how nice it would be one day when I wasn’t the only one making noise in the house. I day dreamed of hearing play in other rooms, voices, music, the clatter of curious minds Figuring Out Things. This week as The Man sat at the table with the two pink, round little mouthed babes hollering requests and chattering to him and me and each other, it dawned on me, half-way across the table as I reached over to dish out a plate, that That Day Dream Is Now. What a lovely thought; what a sobering one. In the dark of the quiet mornings, the thrum thrum of the heater hums in the background and all the tick-tocks of clocks swing in mismatched patterns. What a lot of life to live. My thanksgiving this week has been that God sending Jesus for us has given us So Much To Live For. So much purpose, and peace, and reasons to truly radiate and shine for Him.

There is my breaking silence. A few mismatched thoughts, like multiple ticking clocks in the dark, quiet dawn of this year.

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If you’ll notice that shadow in the right hand corner, you’ll perceive the reason for that delicious grin – that being Daddy, of course. That boy’s favorite Man.

 

Time to Talk – friendship

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When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, “What is it?”
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.   -Robert frost

This poem kept coming to mind after a visit with Ellen a few weeks ago, because she embodies this. She puts down her hoe, and has time for you, time to talk. She was one of the Safe People, growing up. One who Knew The Ropes, but wasn’t coy about it.  She wouldn’t give you measuring glances, up one side and down the other, and give that condescending smirk that you were the New Kid, and by the way, what a horrible skirt (and it should be noted that I had quite a few of these). No, no, Ellen might wrap you in a hug and genuinely laugh and make you feel like you had something interesting to say, or if you didn’t say anything that was fine, because she was one whose sunny presence you could sit back and bask in with nothing said. She came last month to our house because she’s the type that Likes West Texas and actually makes trips to enjoy (besides family), The View (and by that I think they mean the sky and canyons and broad scopes for the imagination). She came to my house along with my Texas Sistren.  We had coffee and lunch and good conversation, and I was reminded again how much We Humans Need Each other. How that our friends are more than a text and a picture on instagram to beef up the feed, and more than an email to remember to send. Our friends – the ones whose soul We Get, or as Anne Shirley would say, “the race of Joseph” that we simply connect to in one way or another, those are the ones who will constantly be encouraging us to sift through soil to find nuggets and meaning to Deeper Life, and to refresh ourselves in the good of life. 9.17_0023

C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” It’s certainly true that after a half hour spent with one of my Bosom Friends, life feels more penetrable, as if the Good Things have been made more ready to harvest.  I find myself thinking, what a good place this world is – what a beautiful life indeed, and what A Lot There Is Yet to Be Discovered and What A Hunger For Good Books I have, and perhaps the evil is not so dominant as I might believe it is at times. Friendship may be a luxury, but after soul conversations, where Souly Friends can ebb and flow from topics of sober depth to merry lightheartedness with that same knitted weave of hearts and minds, I’m encouraged to be the kind of friend that brings that to the table. This is an area in which I need growth.  But I’ve noticed that friends who offer this kind of friendship have in common some traits:

  • time – it’s a precious commodity, and I’m learning to recognize that when someone passes an hour simply visiting, it’s an investment to value.
  • eye contact – this is such a powerful connector, and I love how simply God designed this tool of Getting To Know A Person, and Deepening Ties.
  • thoughtfulness – a card, a text, a visit, something made with your hands for your friend, a favorite bar of chocolate, a cup of tea in company…thoughtfulness isn’t hard, but it does take some, well, Thought. And usually a combination of these other traits.
  • effort – While I do think there are plenty of times to say No to something you could do for or with friends in order to prioritize other things (family, church, etc.) it still holds true that “a man who will have friends must show himself friendly”, and that effort will pay.
  • listening – one of my sisters is especially good at this, but from her quiet eyes, she will sometimes wonder if listening is enough. But, it is. Listening, as passive as it might seem, is a balm for people. It’s a salve you offer, simply by lending your ear. People need this…there are lots of voices, and not too many ears, nowadays.

I remember leaning against the counter of a lady I’d just met, and soaking in the warmth of her soul that poured from her home and her speech and her face. I told my friend, Kathryn when we left, I felt as though I’d drunk from a cool fountain and hadn’t realized how parched I was. Again, one of the Asters In My Sky lives in Mississippi, and on a hot June day that was dripping with scents of blackberries in the hedge and honeysuckles on clusters, she sat on the edge of the claw foot tub in her bathroom, while I sat on the (closed lid of the) commode and We Talked Life. Things that are dear to heart surface in the presence of common souls. Exposing and reminding each other of Those Things, are what sharpen, and shape us.  I don’t know if you do this, but I can trace so many Inspirations and Determinations in my life, back to someone I look up to. Dear Friends, in the darkness surrounding us, keep being those beacons, those heart healers, those listening ears and refreshing people that pour out kindness and give value to survival. It’s something that will never grow old in this mortal world.

9.17_00029.17_00039.17_00049.17_00059.17_00069.17_00079.17_0008daniel loved chilling out with the girls as we drank so much coffee and talked of all good things.
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prettiest eyes and those dimples. Ellen, you bless so many people. So thankful for our friendship.

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enter, cosy kitchen nook that’s my favorite spot in the house. it does so well for accommodating however many we want to squeeze in there.

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snapped these of Lana because her ring was sparkling through the trees…little did we know she’d be getting married the next week!9.17_0024

just gotta end with the two darling fellows of the house.

 

A Place to Come Home To

Whether it was a trip packed with cousins, grandparents, tea parties, war parties in the big field behind Aunt Judy’s house, or singing schools, meetings or spending the night at a friend’s house, it was good to come home. Same old home. Same old creaky board, same ole cat in the bushes waiting to jump out at you just before you reach the steps. There were so many things just the same. And there was a sense of security and comfort in going back to the things you could count on. So many wholesome things too, that I see more now, took a great deal of effort and deliberate action on Mama and Daddy’s part. Mama’s cheerful grin and peck on the cheek as she squeezed a good morning hug, daddy’s bacon and eggs, the traditions of making each birthday count, each accomplishment of your children something to brag about at the table that night – and being at the table each night, everyone, all together. You talked about your day, and things coming up and the funnies that stood out to you.

jan17-3313John Barrett and I jumped into this marriage and family thing, just like everyone else who doesn’t feel qualified. It’s amazing to me that we get to be Home for our kids. That we have the privilege of creating that same beauty of home with all its traditions, warmth and comfort. Sometimes I think – I don’t know where in the world to begin! But I do. It’s been instilled through the careful diligence of parents who kept on keeping on with the daily samenesses that seemed, I’m sure, tedious and almost pointless at times. But knowing I’d not go to sleep without Daddy praying over me, Mama singing over me, and saying “Good night! God bless and keep you through the night! I love you,” bound my heart even to the close of day, with another layer of love and safekeeping. jan17-3291

Now Mama comes and helps me with birth and labor, and with the carrying – on of creating that place you carry with you the rest of your life. Home isn’t a perfect place. You learn Things To Do, and things you Don’t Want To Do from it. But you learn, and still know more how to shape and create an environment of nurture from having experienced family and home yourself. jan17-3330jan17-3373

Recently, Grandmama went through the exhausting process of selling her house. Uncle David, Aunt Judy, Mama – they all helped. But what stood out to Anne and me vividly even this past week, was that it wasn’t just the house they were selling, it was the home my mama, aunt and uncle had known. And even grown as they are, in their 50’s and 60’s, that was tear-jerking, heart-wrending and just plain hard. Home registers deeply. Not all my friends had great homes growing up, but they are now a creating lovely atmospheres and traditions that will help shape beautiful lives and memories for their own kids. Family is a strong and powerful design, that has held the structure of society on its shoulders for millenniums. So, all you fellow family growers, and family members, take heart in all these traditions, these bits of sameness, routine, love and tradition. Thanks to them and your parents, they are the incognito silently arranging and cementing that wonderful place you get to cherish and come home to.jan17-3458jan17-3463

Daniel when he was just 3 weeks old and soooo litttttle (insert 10 cry faces and 15 heart eyes, of course) jan17-3475jan17-3478

I…..don’t know where she gets these faces….But they are INTENSE.jan17-3553jan17-3490“Uhhhhm….Mama, you should see this…just letting you know…it’s white, fluffy and falling from the sky…”

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We felt all pioneer drying our shoes and hats by the fire after staying a whole 3 minutes in the snow. jan17-3639jan17-3640jan17-3698jan17-3701Daddy’s lunch break means as much attention she can steal from him in an hour. jan17-3740jan17-3753

Carrot stick adds to the photo. BF-4916BF-4937BF-4954BF-4972

How, Chief.BF-4975BF-4991Sometimes hotels can have pretty headboards, I discovered. And this kid loves her little brother. I’m so glad that the massive mullet on her head ends in those three perfect curls which look simply divine with a bonnet on – and comically out of place without it.

Happy Wednesday, y’all!

The Love Story 7.

 

What I knew at the beginning of the day was that I had been scared to death of not doing a good enough job. The bride was a photographer I respected, so were her parents. I was a peewee from Georgia, who liked taking pictures of mailboxes and frogs. And people – when I got up the courage. But what I didn’t know was that that ceremony would be blazed on my mind’s eye as clear as day, and many a time afterwards I’d visit that scene.

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It was hot, early June of 2013, and my leg was falling asleep. I was crouching at the front of the rows of chairs under a canopy of trees. To my left, clearly in view, were the bride and groom. On the right, an elderly woman smiled at me from the front row. A few minutes earlier, she’d had a paper bag on her head, shielding her from the thick drops of warm falling rain. Grey, purple clouds rolled over the surrounding green fields, and threatened more rain, which came eventually.  The joy this couple felt wasn’t about to be dampened by any shower or torrent of rain, though. I was photographing a wedding in Franklin, Tennessee, hoping I didn’t miss a shot, hoping I didn’t trip or have a sneezing fit or chew nervously on the gum I forgot to spit out. Just before the wedding party had emerged, the sun broke through in brilliant shafts of gold. It couldn’t have been planned more beautifully, and I felt like it was a gift God had tailored Himself for the occasion. The bride came down the aisle, took the groom’s hands and as they looked at each other, I was struck with the apparent joy and radiance of both of them…It is still bright in my mind. No hesitation. No fear. No questions. Just a full happiness. And this – this raw openness of love for each other seared away at my mind. I took in this whole scene…the birds singing high, the lush green surrounding us, the fragrance of warm, wet earth from summer rain. And the bride and groom…what was it about them?  I felt they were truly looking through the eyes into the soul of the other. There was a confidence in knowing…they were Home. Home to each other. That this person was the One out of All the Other People On The Planet that they’d rather be with. Forever. And a comfortability of Being. I felt that, in a strange way, they saw not just the person standing there at that moment, but that they were looking at – and loving – every facet of that person they’d ever known – good and bad and present and past, silly, sweet, sad, moody, stressed, happy and Less Than Up to Par. I sensed, too, that Completeness which only comes when another person unlocks the Rest Of You. Unlocks the ability to function as you, and More Than You. The You that you Want to be, but need the courage or permission and strength to be. And the amazing thing was that there was no shock or hesitation from what they saw. Thoroughly, they saw, and they adored that person. It was visible. Unmistakeable. And it registered somewhere deep inside.

Later in June, I sat at the kitchen table of the Grey Submarine, a pencil suspended in my hand, while I dazed into space and looked, I suspect, perplexed. Mama glanced at me. Then emptied her armload of tasks onto the table, poured herself and me a cup of tea, and sat down.”What’cha thinkin’ about, darlin’?” It’s no use saying “Nothing” to the woman who, out of all women, knows you best. So I told her what I’d been afraid to say, even to myself. That what I’d seen that day in June had made itself unforgettable to me… That I wanted that for myself…Was that too much to ask? Was it…selfish? Was it unrealistic? I was in a relationship at the time, and while so much seemed good and right, there were still things I doubted – things I couldn’t even put a finger on – but that kept me from having a complete peace and calm with it. The reasons I could name seemed trivial and not worth giving up a whole relationship over. And I wrestled with the issue – push on? give up? But That Day in June…that couple…that Wholeness they exuded…I couldn’t shake it.

I was told, “Listen to your doubts. God allows us to have them for a reason. There’s a Third to your relationship, and in those moments when you think ‘mmm…something isn’t right,’ that is Him.” I ended the relationship and decided to hold out for what I’d seen in June. I’d wait for that soul-seeing person.

Well, now, almost a year later, here I was, sweeping my floor, while Daddy went to pick up “That fellow from Texas” at the airport. All week I’d felt perturbed. Why was he coming?  From January to April we’d only messaged on Facebook, sent a couple of letters, had a couple of phone calls. All of this was surface based stuff. He’d never said he liked me. Never expressed a deep interest. Truth be told, it ruffled my feathers that he didn’t. (As if it wasn’t fair for the man not to know, when we’d not spent two whole days around each other!) Nevertheless, I, in turn, convinced myself I wasn’t so very interested…After all, there are other fish in the sea…(this was pure self defense in case he decided he didn’t like me after all). He’d written in a letter that, Nothing so well helps a person to get to know another than being face to face. He hoped in coming we could better know whether to pursue or leave off the relationship.

chip on your chiseled shoulder, Ma’am

Note. This is highly un – Politically Correct. If you disagree, please comment with respect, or not at all. 

Processed with VSCO with s2 presetThere’s a lot of talk nowadays about us women – what we deserve, what we go through just Being Women; how great we are and how everyone needs to acknowledge that. We make the world go round. We are, after all, Women.

This morning, as I walked into the hotel breakfast room, I tried to be aware of my countenance. So often in our culture now, women are sour, dour and defensive. Not readily do you find a woman without a chip on her shoulder; without a hardened shell.  That shows through her countenance. But the loveliness in a tender heart and womanly, gentle and vulnerable, cannot be ignored. Quite the contrary, it is refreshingly stark against the coarse visage of the Modern Woman. It’s like a spring scene after winter. It is what the songs, poems and love stories of old were based on – that creature full of grace, tenderness, and forgiveness, soft speech, gentle words and kind. She who laughs merrily – not from spite or anger and doesn’t wallow in pity parties (hello, me). She is the lady who trusts, depends on her man and isn’t ashamed that she needs him; rather she honestly acknowledges that need, and he is propelled all the more to be the man she deserves. Such songs and poems couldn’t be written now, because such poetry required a lady to win, woo, defend and protect. But we don’t need defending by anyone. We are women. We defend ourselves. So men hesitate to open doors for us, or compliment our womanliness, or, indeed, acknowledge any difference at all. Processed with VSCO with s2 presetThere is so much in Man to be admired: their strength, courage, nobility and chivalry, their calm under fire, their ability to defend and to strategize, their consistent hard work. The things about them that are simply different than us girls, physically, mentally and emotionally, are worth praising. They are things to admire in them, not belittle. And yet, they are belittled. I hope in all this mad grasping for our own recognition, that we will pause. This mindset of Women’s Rights, Women Rule, Women, Women, Women is so prevalent, that sometimes we swallow the draught without examining it, and the damage it causes to men, our families, and our social structure. Its mantras can run through our heads, out our mouths and integrate into our actions, with barely any notice from us at all.

It is damaging though. When men cannot be Manly Men, and are cowed by us into submission of our Wants, Our Needs, Our Rights, our structure dissolves away.  God created us ladies with the capacity of tenderness, durability, enabling, inspiring, nurturing and encouraging. But it’s not through singing our own praises that we achieve our greatness. It’s in focusing on the success, the needs and the fulfillment of others. How I do hope that I can do that. And that my husband will not feel demeaned, unneeded or disrespected in this age of Women Who Need No-one. The truth is, we do. And our men are worthy of praise and respect.

This morning, I tried to be aware of my countenance simply because I don’t want the dour, armor plaited hardness of the Modern Woman anywhere in my heart, face or demeanor. I want, and hope that all we ladies, can examine the loveliness of a woman as first intended, without this warped hardness, bitterness and self – boasting, for it is truly a wondrous masterpiece.