This is me

Cheryl (177 of 418)-1
Special thanks to Koli Nichols Photography 

I love children, flowers, and conversation.   I don’t watch tv and I don’t iron.  I am tender hearted and hard headed.

I believe in marriage, foster children, and adoption.  Despite that fact, I have failed at all of them.  I do not regret anything I have attempted and, of course, there are things that I would do differently.

Thirty days ago I didn’t know much about a podcast.  Things have changed.  I obviously don’t know much about a blog either, but I have a precious baby girl who is loyal to her mother.

I love being Southern, at least in the mindset of all that is good.  Relationships are the best and it all began with my Aunt Genevieve.  She lovingly called me by my middle name of Suzette my entire life.  She was my dad’s baby sister.  She spoke her own language-Genevievian.  It was tons of small phrases followed with laughter.  I try to speak it with my close friends whenever possible.

A funny story was always preceded by “Don’t laugh, Suzette”, and I knew that I was about to.  I would love to share the best of us with you as well.

Don’t laugh,

Cheryl

Watch your step…

It is funny what triggers my memory, one of those things where a door sticks or a step is crooked.

Some imperfection that needs to be fixed, but at the same time you think about how good we have it.

Now we work to add themes and style to our homes, when we used to only be concerned with function.

We lived in simple little houses. And a roof over your head was enough.

Enough.

I don’t think it exists anymore.

Back before the DIY network, when it was do it yourself or it doesn’t get done.

I think that is one of the reasons I love my father-in-law so much.  I respect him.

You can still visit a crooked little house a little ways down the road.

The roof is low.

The rooms aren’t “square”.

Before he was Paw Paw, he was Jim.

The oldest son to Thurman and Essie.

Thurman was crippled.

When you see that little house, it is pretty impressive.

Paw Paw says it doesn’t look too bad for it to be built by a 12 year old.

Well that’s not completely true. There was a 10 year old and his mom and dad.

Together they tried. Together they built it.

It’s far from today’s perfect.

But it housed 10 kids and more grandkids than I can count.

Sixty years later and I am not only impressed, I am humble.

I can’t imagine.

Most grown men could not build that house.

The biggest reason is they would not try.

I wish there was a network for trying.

When you are thankful this Thursday, be thankful for those that tried.

Sometimes when I think about where life is taking me and things feel a little unsure, I just need to remember to remind myself-

You will get there, even if you’re steps are crooked…

Cheryl

Seems like old times…

When we were growing up, Daddy did all the cooking.

And as my Jacob says, “If you were hungry, it was your own fault. ”

Papa as he calls him, has always made sure everyone had plenty to eat.

He is even famous in the family for making lunches. I cannot say they are traditional, but they definitely make for a heavy sack.

When my brother Johnny was alive, he framed houses and worked close to home at times.

It was not unusual for Daddy to pull up in his big red truck he named “Boodreaux” on a jobsite and hand Johnny a sack.

What was unusual, however, was what the sack contained. We have laughed about Johnny opening his sack to find famous contents like a butterbean sandwich.

As Johnny got teased about his Daddy bringing him lunch, he could shrug it off with a simple “Yea, he loves me”.

And Daddy did.

So when Johnny’s son Luke called Papa last week and asked if he would fix him a lunch, Papa was more than ready to fill up a sack.

I believe Daddy said he put vienna’s, snack cakes, and even an egg mcmuffin in that bag.

No butterbean sandwich. (I did ask for the sake of my readers.)

Daddy was so pleased about being asked, he looked at me and he smiled.

When he said, “It seemed like old times…”, I knew exactly what he meant.

He had to share the story with me. And I had to share it with you.

So here’s to my little brother Johnny.

We love you, we miss you and you still make us smile.

Even over something as simple as a sack lunch.

I am so very thankful for you, your boys and last but definitely not least-butterbean sandwiches.

Don’t laugh brother,

Sister

Trick-or-treat…

Halloween in West Blocton, Alabama, is so very special.

Main Street was made for it.

My friend Todd estimated 700 trick-or-treaters tonight.

Once Main Street gets blocked off at 5 p.m., the fun begins.

Not only do we trick-or-treat, we visit.

We tailgate. We eat hot dogs and chili. And dips and desserts.

So tonight when we give directions, we tell you how to get to Main Street via the backstreets.

And when you turn on Hickory, you will find Daddy.

He plans ahead.

He starts a fire in the front yard.

He sits on the porch.

He passes out goodie bags he has made in advance filled with miniature candy bars.

And then for the grand finale, you get your choice of flavors of a small can of vienna sausages.

The first year Daddy passed out “Vi-enners”, I think I cried laughing. And I was embarrassed.

The grandkids absolutely loved it.  It is now a tradition for well over a decade.

Daddy buys a few cases every year and I think it is now a novelty stop for the littlest of locals.

Take your pick.

Take your flavor.

And take your hug.

Thank you Papa. For being you.

I am no longer embarrassed.

I am proud of you and all that you do-your sweet way.

Happy Halloween from Hickory Street,

Cheryl

Homecoming…

I was 14. Reagen’s age now.

I was National Junior Honor Society 9th Grade Maid.

I had my dress, posters made for the side of my car. But no car.

Nobody we knew owned a convertible.

Big Ack said you can use my truck. A grey GMC pickup.

We put our dining room bench in the back. The kind with the wooden frame and velvet type cloth with pictures of deer and grist mills scenery on the material.

My dress was borrowed from my friend. I thought I was a rebel with “high top tenny shoes” underneath.

Aunt Genevieve could not stop cringing and laughing about my parade ensemble. She would shake her head and laugh some more.

I remember her fussing because the truck was dirty. I can’t remember if we even had time to wash it.

But what I can remember is looking to my right. (I was facing backwards on the bench.) There on the block wall of Kathy McCulley’s house sat my granddaddy. I can still see his overalls. His head tilted sideways when he smiled at me. And that sweet little wave.

Aunt Genevieve was still laughing.

We get so many things wrong in life. We stress about finances and things and stuff.

Stuff.

Who cares?

My most prized possessions are in my head.

My memories.

Throw away your bad ones.

Declutter the garbage and the mistakes and the abuse and the regret.

Find the Main Street in your life.

And Come Home,

Cheryl

Go!

One year ago.

I am sitting in my car looking at myself in the visor mirror.

No makeup. Yoga pants. Fever blister.

True recipe for avoiding any appearance in public.

I was just going to run in Reagen’s school and back for a second. And I did.

(In the 4 years that Reagen went to West Blocton Middle School, I probably averaged one appearance per year. I usually rank high on Bad Mom Awards when my sister and I compare parenting mishaps.)

But of course, on the day I want to see no one, I see State Senator Cam Ward and State Representative April Weaver. I avoid eye contact and head to my car.

When I get in my car, I ask myself-“What are the chances that I will see Cam and April again?

I know the answer, so I flip up the visor and go back into the school.

I explain myself to Tammy Donner, who is not only our school secretary, but also a personal friend.

Tammy is also a very cool former First Lady of West Blocton, who has supported me behind the scenes and publicly.

I tell her that I would love to ask them to help with our suicide prevention efforts and she encourages me to hang out until they are finished.

About the time they are leaving the school, I am standing at her desk and she is saying, “Go, go, go, go ,go, go goooo…..!”

I catch them outside on the sidewalk.

I stammer out who I am and my famous, “I have an idea”, without catching my breath.

Jeff always says I should slow down and catch my breath when I get excited. My middle age memory scares me. I feel that if I don’t get it out quick, I will forget what I am saying.

Needless to say, I did not overwhelm them too bad. They smiled and ended up encouraging me with their support .

April attended the Wildflower Walk and shared her story. Mental health is important to her because she was a registered nurse prior to being our State Representative.

She also shared a John B. McLemore story with me.

She attended Cahawba Christian Academy. John was much older, but she remembers him and she remembers Mary Grace being the librarian.

What else she remembers about him, makes me smile. We’ve all been the target of dodgeball gone bad. There is always the one kid who is a terror. She remembers John getting that kid out immediately. Then John was a good sport and willing to let them throw the ball at him.

Coincidence? Divine intervention? Or just plain no shame on my part, either way here we are one year later.

State Representative April Weaver is bringing a check for $2,500.00 for the library and suicide prevention.

My heart is full. But my eyes, well they are overflowing.

On behalf of everyone we can reach, Thank You Cam and Thank You April,

Cheryl

Even when I know you’re wrong…

Some friends come and go out of your life and that is only natural.

I am very thankful that I have a friend who has stayed.

Through the good.

Through the horrible.

Through the worst fashion statements, relationships and finances.

She loaned me my down payment on my house.

She showed up and stood by my side at moments I know that she was wincing and shaking her head.

And she talked about me in golden moments with pride and love.

Thank you for being my friend.

But, mostly thank you for being you.

I have called you at 6 a.m. repeatedly with my late night bright ideas.

You have made signs, took pictures and helped pay the bills.

You have had to deliver heartbreaking news to me but it was okay because I knew you loved me.

Our time together as single mom roommates was unbelievably precious.

I love you and I hope you have the happiest of birthdays.

Please don’t ever tell our secrets.

Don’t laugh,

Cheryl

If that Mockingbird don’t sing…

An envelope arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.

A small certificate of completion, but it represents a completely unexpected detour in my life.

On behalf of Alabama Suicide Prevention and Resource Coalition(ASPARC), I will be working with several friends to present the QPR training in a few cities in Alabama over the next few months.

QPR training stands for Question/Persuade/Refer which is basically CPR for mental health.

I signed up to travel to:

Jacksonville

Montgomery

Florence

Demopolis

Guntersville

Huntsville

And my beloved Monroeville.

I would say it was home to Aunt Genevieve, but her home in her heart was always Blocton.

Monroeville was, however, her mailing address. Summer visits to stay with her included many yard sales and a few trips to the downtown dollar store. Across the street, she would point out the courthouse to me.

Much like Scout, I didn’t fully understand.

As an adult now, when I think of a return to South Alabama, I remember her encouraging me to watch “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

I know every character in the book, but I also lived with them in real life. Harper Lee brought every small town in Alabama to the stage of Hollywood.

Time for change through the innocence of a child.

I wish I could do the same thing for suicide prevention. I happen to know and love a few people who are the Boo Radley type, or maybe I should say they are mockingbirds.

I will be practicing next week in Woodstock. Feel free to reach out anytime and join me. I would love the input.

I have to admit that I worry that I am not a very good listener, even though I come from a long line of eavesdropping.

Aunt Genevieve said people loved to confide in my Grandmother. One young couple sat at the kitchen table and told her quietly that they were running away to get married.

Aunt Genevieve ran faster than they did apparently, because after she listened she went straight outside to tell their secret.

When she “let the cat out of the bag”, Grandmother tore her tail tore up. Still makes me laugh. It was so Genevieve.

I had a sweet request recently for more Genevieve stories. I smile because her stories were so wonderful. They were not prideful stories of how wonderful I was way back when…

They were stories of mistakes and regrets. But somehow when her heartache and mischief mixed together, they were soon followed with belly laughs and smiles that made your cheeks sore.

More Genevieve…

Yes, we were left wanting just a little more. Makes me so thankful for my memories.

And hers.

There was no need for ancestry. com back then, we only had to place a phone call to Genevieve. You not only found out how they were related, you got a side note of scandal. “His grandmother Minnie and your grandmother Laura were sisters and one time, he broke both his arms when he…” (Names and details have been changed to protect the guilty, haha.)

I missed her last phone call. I am sure I avoided it due to the length of time her phone calls generally took.

I would love one long call today to tell her that I met Mary Badham a.k.a. “Scout”.

I can hear her say, “Ooh Suzette” right now.

I would also love to share my latest bright ideas and adventures with the former Scout of Smith Hill. I know she would appreciate and laugh.

I am very hopeful that after the presentation, I can swing by the Monroeville courthouse. I don’t think I could leave Monroeville without a glimpse of it and then back across the street.

In my mind, I can still see a woman in a sleeveless turtleneck pointing out to a young girl how you stand up and do the right thing even when it is not easy.

Even if you have to do it alone.

Because if you don’t,

Well, it’s kinda like it’s a sin to Kill a Mockingbird…

Suzette