Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sock It To Me

You don't have to open your front door to know fall has finally arrived. Just open your Facebook. We're all so busy talking about the crisp autumn air that we've completely forgotten to Instragram our breakfast. After a long, hot summer, everyone is giddy at the prospect of shaking the moth balls off our cashmere and brushing up on our favorite scarf knots.

Well, maybe not everyone.

For some, the chill in the air might not be welcome at all. It might be dreaded. Across the United States—in alleyways, under bridges, deep in the woods—nearly 600,000 men, women, and children are living outdoors. Just the other night, I was part of a crowd of 2,000 financially fortunate Little Rockers leaving Robinson Auditorium after a comedy show, all smiling our way to dinner or drinks or home. But when we got to our car, a homeless man was sleeping on the sidewalk, right there in the middle of the city, in his home of cardboard and Kroger sacks. I rode home thinking, what could he have bought with the money we all spent on an hour of laughter? What could we have given him?

Then I saw this video.

And I decided to use the Internet to do something awesome. Starting with socks.

In honor of Socktober, my family is holding a Sock Drive, just like my mom used to when I was a kid. I'm asking for your help. Can you contribute a pair of socks? If so, leave a comment below so I can contact you with collection information. Locations will also be posted on my Facebook page.

Let's stop talking about the weather and do something about it. Please give.

Monday, August 5, 2013

In Kind

The man stood in the Target parking lot, a sign in his hands saying he lost his job and needed help feeding his family. They were there, too—a thin young woman holding a beautiful infant daughter, an orange flower blossoming from her halo of black curls. Because I'm cheap, I only gave them a dollar. Because I'm kind, I then drove to Starbucks and asked for two cups of ice water to take back to them. The barista gave me the water, grudgingly, but not without tossing in a tip: "You know, you're just feeding stray cats."

The family stuck with me as I headed up Cantrell toward home. I thought about how one unlucky break could be the difference between pulling up my nice curved driveway and holding up a sign in a sweltering parking lot. We aren't so different, his family and mine. Our luck could run out, too. I was thinking about this as I drove past The Toggery, an ultra fancy children's boutique a few minutes from home. They had a sign, too—big colorful letters promising their affluent clientele huge summer savings. What could it hurt to ask? I went in and told the saleswoman about the family. "Is there any chance you could donate anything for their baby?" The saleswoman asked me to wait while she disappeared into the back. When she returned, she was gently folding three complete outfits—dresses, bloomers, hats. Before she could slip them into the bag, another saleswoman walked up and handed her a gorgeous smocked dress to add to the gift. I expected to be shown the door. Instead, I was shown amazing kindness.

I'll probably never be the kind of person who shops at The Toggery, but I hope I never stop finding ways to share their spirit of generosity and kindness to people.

And maybe even a few stray cats.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Belonging, noun:
1. possession, personal effect
2. close or intimate relationship

It was a Saturday morning and I was poking through one of three huge boxes of purses lining the edge of a yard cluttered with a life's accumulation of belongings. The girl having the yard sale was still in her twenties, too young to have amassed such a collection. I struck up a conversation about all those purses; the objects I find most interesting are the ones with a story. So she gave me the story: My mother died.

Instantly, I was transformed from shopper to vulture, picking around the corpse for a juicy morsel. When my grandmother died, my mother refused to sell any of her belongings. She couldn't bring herself to let strangers judge and haggle over her mother's memories. I thought she was foolish, giving everything away when it could be sold for good money. Now, I understood.

I bought a purse, but I couldn't get past its story. Every time I went to use it, I felt the weight of regret at making that poor girl put words to her sadness. Months went by before I finally decided to carry the purse to a going away party for a friend. As I rummaged for a lipstick in the dark hallway outside the ladies room, I looked up to find the girl from the yard sale standing beside me, eyes fixed on her mother's purse. A bemused smile broke through the sadness on her face: Today is the two year anniversary of my mother's death.

Belongings can have stories, and maybe some can even have ghosts, who slip out of the shadows to appear at just the right moment.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Remember Mama

In some families, sibling rivalry can be a real bother. (See: Cain and Abel.) In ours, it's pretty benign. We've never fought over men or competed in careers. We don't care who makes the most money or even who mom and dad like best at any given time. The sibling rivalry in our family revolves around just one small, yet critical matter: Who can give the gift that makes mom cry.

My sister, with the unfair advantage of incredible talent and generosity, usually wins. But not this year. This year, Mother's Day is mine.

This year, I have a secret weapon:

Once upon a time, Laura Brown was my teacher in an official capacity. She gave me things to read and things to write. She gave me guidance in the kindest of ways, with a gentle nudge or probing question, jotted in the margin of my paper in tiny lavender script. After the semester came to an end, I graduated from student to friend, but Laura continued to teach me. When I carelessly tossed a "funny" comment on my Facebook wall that got a cheap laugh at my mother's expense, Laura was there to gently nudge me again. "Honor your mother," she wrote in a private message."Be grateful that you still have her."

Just in time for Mother's Day, Laura came through for me again. Her new book, Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories, is her best writing assignment yet. On each page, Laura shares a simple memory of her own mom doing one of a thousand simple mom things: shopping, visiting, playing, caring. Like a good teacher, Laura then offers a selection of writing prompts designed to stir our own mom memories and some space for us to share them. In the end, the gift we give our mother isn't a book, but the knowledge that we have been listening, we have been paying attention, we do remember.

Thank you, Laura, for a beautiful book that will make my mom cry.

And thank you, Mom, for a lifetime of memories that no single book can contain.