Gran's Apple Butter Blog

February 21, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Love Letter to Gran (9I)

Filed under: Authentic self,Book Series,Books,Forgiveness,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Grandma,Love Letter to Gran — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 6:11 pm

Chapter 9 ~ Love Letter to Gran

I know you will wander and I know you will roam, but please just remember you can always come home. – Bob Sima

Just as our story opened with Gran’s letter to Mikey, it ends with Mikey’s letter to Gran.

December 28, 2009

Dear Gran,

I found our manuscript not long after you were gone. It was almost complete. I just needed to smooth things over a bit, although it took me a year to be ready to do that. Mainly I wanted to add your story, to introduce you to all my friends. And I needed to read those pages a few more times myself, to finally grasp what we were talking about so long ago.

It’s all a birthing process, isn’t it? We’re all being born again, Gran, born into who we really are. I think I know what a caterpillar feels like now, fearful as it faces death, not realizing the light and life and joy waiting on the other side with that gorgeous set of wings.

Early on I realized this wasn’t just our story, Gran. It’s a beautiful tapestry of the wisdom of friends I’ve met all around the world. Their voices rise up, blending in my mind, a light shining in their eyes that reflected the flame in mind as they shared what their own grandmothers taught them. How precious to know we all feel this longing for home. What a bridge this offers in our disconnected world.

I finally get it: We’ll keep learning about this our entire lives, redefining and reshaping our relationships, our worlds, ourselves. It’s never too late to start, and we’ll finish right on time. Like the story cousin Wayne shared about his talk with Aunt Tishie not long before she went home. She told him that somewhere just past 70, she’d realized she was ready to let go of some things she’d held on to all her life – to open her heart and eyes to seeing things in a whole new way. She understood that until then she hadn’t been capable of making that choice. She called it evolution – she had evolved.

Just like Wayne remembers her, Gran, I remember you. I have so many wonderful memories. Heading for your house, that feeling of anticipation that grew with each mile, seeing the lights as we topped the hill. Arriving late, neighbors fast asleep, one light shining softly through the living room window: Gran waiting up, listening for the car. A quiet knock, and there you’d be at the door, hair set for the night, headscarf not quite covering the bobby-pinned curls around your forehead. I can hear the quiet rasp as the door opened into your world and the smell of Gran’s house would wrap us in a blanket of home even as we stood on the doorstep.

Fuzzy robe just right for hugs, Gran’s special PJs awaiting all, and a big pot of chili simmering on the stove, waiting for our arrival. Never too tired to eat, especially not your famous chili, we’d gather in the kitchen, munching crackers from the big pink tub and dousing our bowls with vinegar. Do you know how many years it took me to learn that not everyone puts vinegar in their chili?

Sooner or later I’d find myself falling asleep on a pallet in the living room floor, listening to the big clock tick from the kitchen wall, comforting hum as the refrigerator kicked on. Belly full, blankets warm, pillow soft, all the smells sifting through the house from the oven that never seemed to be turned off. Grandpa coming back in for one last drink of cold water. Then silence, darkness, sleep. Waking briefly to a soft glow from the kitchen and the sound of the oven door being carefully opened, tinfoil peeling back, stirrings and stirrings… then the light would go off, and a beautiful shadow in a long, pink robe would quietly drift back down the hallway. So many memories…

Looking back, I realize my childish anger that we didn’t finish our book so long ago was disturbingly similar to my emotions years later, Gran, when you took your final journey home. How could you have let me down like that? How thoughtless. At least that’s how I tried to convince myself I saw it. Somehow that made it easier. Once again I went through all the stages of grief, not in a nice, neat, straight line, but in a jagged, messy, confusing mass, one and then the other and then the other, until I finally arrived at acceptance and love – love for you, and love for me.

I didn’t deal well with your death, Gran, no better than I’d dealt with many other things in my life. I went through it all, fighting the truth: depression, eating too much, drinking too much, sleeping too much, medicating myself with every substance and activity and form of busy-ness I could find, staying in bad jobs and worse jobs, losing good friends, keeping bad ones, enduring traitors, finding my own treacherous streak, starting good relationships that quickly soured and then staying in them long after I knew better. And that’s just the short list.

One thing about it, I reinvented the wheel of emotional learning so many times, I should be a genius by now. I insisted on learning all my lessons the hard way, rather than learning from others’ mistakes. And here I thought my dad was the hard-headed one in the family. Gran, you knew I would go through all this. That I had to, before I could finish our book. And so it was. I know I still have a lot to learn, a lot to work on. But Gran, after all these years, I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe there is a way.

I remember how you used to talk about innocence, how it was a wonderful thing when it was a true innocence based on experience. You knew I would lose my innocence as I grew older, just as you did, as my life seemed to prove everything I remembered wrong. But I feel like I’m on my way back to regaining this, this time the true innocence you chose to have, in spite of everything, because you knew what the full potential of each person, each situation, really was. You trusted, when there was no obvious reason to trust, because you knew what COULD be. You loved, when there was no obvious reason to love, because you knew what really WAS.

Thank you for setting this example, Gran. I’m trying to live up to it now, one baby step at a time, and I can feel you holding my hand. Thank you for teaching me about love, and hope, and faith, and trust. Thank you for teaching me not to give up on myself when everyone else did, when even I did. Thank you for not giving up on me, even when it looked like I’d given up on you. No, we’ll never get back those years, and letting go of that guilt is something I’m still working on. But you knew, Gran. You knew who I really was, who I really could be, and you taught me to look for that in others. I’m trying, Gran, I’m really trying.

Gran, it’s taken me years to figure out who I am and who I want to be when I grow up. I’m not sure I fully know now. As I’ve tried on different personalities along the way, I’ve managed to alienate a lot of people I care about. And like you predicted, I wasn’t sure how to go about mending those bridges, or if I should even try, because I knew some of those chasms were deep and wide – most times with good reason.

But Gran, you had one tidbit of wisdom I wouldn’t learn ’til further along – that people are often harder on themselves than on those around them. So while I spent years castigating myself for things I should or shouldn’t have done, once I started reaching out, to my amazement I’ve found that more often than not the person on the other side was already walking in my direction, holding out a hand in peace. Wow.

In many ways, Gran, finishing our story is more than just ‘finishing our story’ for me. It’s also a big long apology to all these people. I hope they can look at me a little differently now. Even if they can’t, at least I can look at myself differently, understanding a bit more about where I came from, and where I’m headed.

As I pen these last pages, I can’t help but feel sad. I know we have more books coming. I can feel their seeds stirring in my soul, just waiting for the sunshine and rain to help them grow. But this was our first, Gran, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s silly, but I’m sitting here with a big lump in my throat. This book is so much more than just ink on paper. It’s my love letter to you, Gran, the one I never wrote before. Just like the love letters you used to write to me.

Maybe in a little way it’s also a love letter to myself, sending love in a circle, knowing that as I send it to you, it will come back to me. I realize that in saying goodbye to these pages, I’m also saying goodbye to you, the one I never got to say in real life. And I’m in no more of a rush to say it now than I was then. I don’t want to say it. Who knows, maybe I just won’t say it at all. Somehow, I think you’ll be good with that. I’m not ready to let you go just yet, Gran. Not yet. Someday. And that’s enough for now.

Gran, I forgot the book. I forgot a lot of things over the years, including most of what I knew about Home. But as I read our words, it all came back. I could feel the energy shift, the blocks moving as my tears melted them, and I could finally mourn, letting go of the one person who had meant more to me than anything in the world: Myself. At least, the me I thought I had become. As those tears fell, more followed – tears for you, tears for me, tears for others, great big sloppy drops across the pages for all the years and fears and feelings, expressed and not expressed. You’re right, Gran – you were right all along. But then, there was never really any doubt, was there?

I remember your do-over theory, Gran, that we get more than one chance to learn the things we need to in life. I hope you’re right. That’d be quite a relief, to know I didnt’ have to get it all perfect this time ’round. And if that’s right, I just wonder what you’re doing now, and what Big Adventure you’re planning next. I wonder if I’ll see you somewhere out there. And when I do, I wonder if I’ll look in your eyes and know you, seeing a fresh reflection of home. I think I will. Maybe I already have.

Thanks for everything, Gran. I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.



P.S. I think I’ve finally earned my whole name now, Gran, just like you said.


In Gran’s honor, it’s only fitting that we end this little story the same way she always ended hers, with the reminder that everything we had talked about was just our truth – hers, mine – and that it would serve me well to not accept anything she said “just because she said so.” Instead, she’d invite me to think about these things and drawn my own conclusions…


So there ya go, Gran. Did I do good?

And a whisper reaches my ear, the voice of Gran – or it is only my imagination?

“You did it, Mikey, you did it. Now can we all do it? Yes, we can.”


Thank you for sharing this time with us on Gran’s front porch. As darkness falls and the shadows lengthen, Mikey and Gran would like to offer one final question for you to think about as you fall asleep tonight…

Follow the Love {Bob Sima}

Have you ever asked yourself
Have you really sat down and asked yourself
What is it that makes my head and my heart collide
What am I gonna do when it comes down to choosing sides… choosing sides…

Have you ever asked yourself
Have you really sat down and asked yourself
What is it that makes my soul catch fire
What is it that I really believe inside?

Have you ever really listened to the little voice inside your head?
When it really comes down to it, you shouldn’t have to think about it
When it really comes down to it, just go with your heart
It’s easy to see where you’re going when you’re following the love…
Follow the love, follow the love, follow the love…

Have you ever doubted yourself
Have you ever just sat down and wept
What is it that makes my plans and my dreams collide
What am I gonna do when it comes down to choosing sides… choosing sides…

Have you ever really listened to the little voice inside your head?
When it really comes down to it, you shouldn’t have to think about it
When it really comes down to it, go with your heart
‘Cause it’s easy to see where you’re going when you’re following the love…
Follow the love, follow the love, follow the love…

Don’t change your mind, don’t change your mind, don’t change your mind, don’t change your mind


Gran’s final borrowed advice:

Then give to the world the best you have,
and the best will come back to you.
~ Madeline Bridges

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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January 17, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Remember Your Manners (8IV)

Chapter 8 ~ Remember Your Manners

Although the specifics of good manners are debatable, Gran thought their observance in general is more important than we realize. Not just for the sake of knowing where our napkin goes, which maybe isn’t all that important in the big picture, but because of the patterns and processes and ways of being that develop based on these guidelines.

We become aware of how our actions affect others the same way we notice when we’re chewing with our mouths open. You know, that incredulous stare from the other side of the table, if our parents didn’t get that fully drilled in. How we do what we do shapes how people see us, whether we like it or not, and actions speak louder than words. After all, there’s more to body language than just how you shake hands.

Gran thought the most important reason for learning manners was that this taught sensitivity to others, like a beginner’s class in diplomacy. First and foremost: Pay attention. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, slow down. Hitting speed bumps at full throttle is never recommended.

No matter what, as one friend advised, just show up and be your best self, which may include planning a few defensive maneuvers and remembering that “a soft answer turns away wrath.”  Be respectful – of your differences, each other, and yourself. When in doubt, looking for ways you’re similar is a good place to start. And if you need time or space to process, take it. Everyone will be glad you did.

At the same time, if we’re acting from our center, we may not get as impatient or angry when others do things we find offensive. We’ll be more compassionate and understanding, and we’ll know when to share our needs, to give the other person a chance to meet those needs. If someone chooses not to do that, we have other options. We can s-t-r-e-t-c-h to let go of that need, we can accept their choice, we can take our company elsewhere, or we can stuff our frustration down inside until it reaches the DANGER HIGH EXPLOSIVES level. That, Gran said, is generally counter-productive.

Whatever we do, we want to remember that those who share our lives – especially our youngest companions – are watching us and learning from our choices, helpful and not so helpful. Gran thought that’s why artists often portray children with great big eyes and little bitty ears. They may not listen much, but they watch everything.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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January 3, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Welcome Home! (8II)

Chapter 8 ~ Welcome Home!

Once you’re sure you’re in the right place, what’s next? Per Gran, be ready to party! If you don’t have your happy hat on, better get it quick.

After all, you’ve come home to love, to yourself, to all the good things you can hardly imagine, they’re so great, and all the wonderful people you’ve ever known in your whole existence! There is nothing to fear, Gran said. In fact, we should toss that idea out the window right now, ‘cause it’s getting in her way and she’s ready to feel the looovvve. You ever tried to have a party and carry around a suitcase full of fear at the same time? Doesn’t work very well, does it?

So if any sneaky little pieces of fear managed to make it past all your inspections along the road, now is the time to leave them at the door. We don’t need ‘em anymore. Only room in here for me and my party hat.

The best part of any trip is the welcome home party, right? With balloons and streamers and cake and punch and a big “SURPRISE!” as you walk in the door. Oh, and look at all the beautiful leis. Aloha, sweet friend! It’s so good to see you. My heart has missed you.

Wow. How did all these people know I was coming? Someone must have called ahead… I wonder if Gran had anything to do with that.

Fair warning: You better be prepared for a few tears. These welcoming parties can be pretty emotional, ya know. And while your arrival is definitely something to celebrate, it comes with its own set of emotions to process, like everything else in life. Maybe we start with some sad tears as we say goodbye to the road behind and close the door. Then there are all the happy tears we cry next. You know, when you feel so good you can’t keep it all inside and it starts leaking out the corners of yours eyes.

Personally, I like those tears, and a few makeup stains never hurt anybody.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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December 27, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: One Note (8I)

Chapter 8 ~ You Have Reached Your Destination

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. ~ Lin Yutang

At the end of each journey, which is really just the beginning of another, we reach our destination. Depending on the trip, we may stay for a short visit or a long one – just hanging out. And, of course, bearing in mind that like Mikey’s favorite board game, arriving at Go! only means it’s time to begin again, this time with a few more houses and hotels of wisdom and hopefully a nice stash for those bad rolls of the dice. 

Even being at home has its lessons. But for now, let’s focus on your arrival. What does this look like? How does it feel? Gran said in the beginning this is all about coming home inside oneself, with one caveat: Until a person comes home inside, he’ll never be able to reach home anywhere else, ‘cause he’ll run into nothing but roadblocks along the way. He can try to skip ahead, but he may discover himself sliding down a ladder in the wrong direction, landing further back than where he started.

And yet, Gran said, we learn from those moves, so it’s all good.


One Note

First things first: How do you know you’ve arrived? Gran said we’ll feel this before we see it. We’ll feel it in our bones, an overwhelming sense of home. On our first journey, arriving home feels like we’re finally whole and complete. We’ve become one with all the voices inside, knowing that everything we do is guided by our center.

If we’re still not sure, we have a few clues to check – we brought ‘em along and didn’t even know we were doing it! Remember that address in your lunch box? Does it match? Check that photograph we tucked away with the help of Gran’s reminder marble. Anyone look familiar? What’s your heart saying? Yes, that heart with all those scars across it. Hearts always know. The sooner we accept that, the faster we’ll progress on the rest of our journeys.

Another clue we’re home appears when we look in the mirror and see our reflections more clearly than ever before. Maybe we’ll see a part of ourselves we’ve always dreamed about – there it is, in living color, bright as brass and glowing like spun gold.

For me, this coming home meant finding my muse again. My gift, which had a pen-and-ink-quality, died a long, slow death, culminating with the passing of Gran. Everything good ended then, or so it seemed. It took me a long time to find her again – to find myself, somewhere in between. For a while I didn’t even want to look. What was the point?

Knowing our time together was limited, Gran had left a few clues behind for me to follow when I was ready. She saw who I was a long time ago, and she looked deeply enough to know I had a tough road ahead. So she took it upon herself, Gran-style, to leave a few trail markers here and there along the way. Like the manuscript, or like the sheet I pull from my journal as I write, flipping it open to see a copy of my first paycheck. One hundred dollars, payable to ten-year-old Mikey for a story dated 1984. Gran had kept this tucked away, and years later she mailed it to me with a note scrawled inside: “Seems like you were always a step ahead of everyone else.” Did she have any idea how much that would mean to me? I think she did.

These clues could be helpful, but Gran’s favorite way of explaining how we’d know we were home came with a high-tech-deep-science flavor. She couldn’t resist it, she said – she’d run across the idea in one of her magazines, and as soon as she read that headline, the whole thing played out in her mind like a beautiful symphony. She could see it all, from beginning to end.

“Which symphony?” one visitor asked over apple butter and biscuits.

“The symphony of life,” came Gran’s reply.

Then she’d launched into what she’d read about this new string theory everyone was talking about. She’d simplified it, of course, so she could understand it a little better. Gran’s version of string theory basically said that the whole, entire universe, and maybe whatever is outside it, is like a huge symphony, and each thing in it is just another instrument in the orchestra – one more tuba, maybe a slide trombone or a French horn. Personally, I wanted to be the triangle.

But, Gran said, we don’t even get to be a whole instrument by ourselves – we aren’t that big! In fact, you and me, right here, right now, we’re just one tiny little vibration of one note, being played by one particular instrument, in one particular movement, of one particular song, in that whole, entire symphony.

How did this relate to knowing we were home?

Well, Gran said, we’d know we were home when the song sounded just right. We play better when we stop trying to be a whole, unique instrument and start looking for the little place where our note fits into the song playing around us.

We don’t have to try to be the whole symphony or five or six different instruments – it won’t work anyway. All we have to do, to fulfill our mission in life, our purpose for living here on this little ol’ planet, is to play our One Note as best we can, loud and true and strong, in that exact moment when we know it is our time.

Then, Gran said, we’d know we were home.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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August 9, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Wings (6/IX)

Chapter 6 ~ Wings

     When it came to marriage, Gran could speak from both sides of that coin. She’d married and divorced young, learning more about herself in the process than she really cared to. Those lessons took a while to sink in, but eventually she felt ready to try the world of relationships again, this time more aware of what it took to build a happy, healthy home.

     Learning to balance the healthy needs of each individual and the relationship is quite an exercise in character building. For one thing, Gran had learned that the first rule for a good marriage was “Get it in your head: It’s not just about me anymore!” If we want to live a life based on our needs only, we’ll do everyone a favor by staying single. It isn’t fair to add that weight to this experience. On the other hand, a good relationship isn’t based on giving up oneself either. Instead, the road to marital bliss curves somewhere between the two. 

     A key word there was “healthy.” We bring all kinds of needs into our relationships that don’t even serve our own good, much less anyone else’s. Half the expectations and projections we haul in aren’t even related to this new chapter, they’ve just come along for the ride since we never unpacked ‘em from previous journeys. Gran laughed about this. She’d heard somewhere that you marry a family, but she thought in some cases it was more like a small country in the midst of civil war. 

     Gran had her own ideas about relationships. She didn’t believe they required legal tender, for one thing, or that “til death do us part” was either healthy or wise to insist on. Instead, she thought people came together for specific purposes. Once those purposes were served, whether that took one year or fifty, both people would know it, at least if they were being totally honest with themselves. And of course, maybe some couples are supposed to show that life-long commitments really can last in a healthy way.

     Either way, Gran didn’t recommend turning tail as soon as things got hard, ‘cause that’s usually when you’re just starting to work on the relationship’s true purpose. If we run away each time we reach this point, wherever it may be, all we’ll do is find someone else to study our homework with, and the cycle will repeat itself.

     Gran knew the sting that came with all this learning, but she also understood the growth spurt all that pain can spark. Everyone has to make their own choices, she said, realizing that all choices have consequences. Sometimes simply making these choices ourselves, rather than letting them be made for us, is one of our first lessons.

     Regardless, true love doesn’t mean desperately clinging to each other, especially not when our grasp is only a clutch of fear of the unknown or of being alone. True love can mean letting go for the good of all involved. Sometimes we’re just not ready for all the work and growing up a relationship requires, although it’s better to find that out before we get into one. Or maybe it’s just not part of our path right now – maybe we’re here to do something else – and that’s fine. Relationships are only an option, Gran said, and only we know if one feels like highest good.

     Gran had counseled a lot of marital problems on all her Sunday picnics. Most of them came down to communication and power. Each has a flip side – we learn about power by abusing it and being abused by it, and about communication by over- or under-expressing ourselves and our needs. Gran had learned she couldn’t expect someone to meet needs she wasn’t willing or able to express or even to admit to herself. Of course, it was then up to her to figure out what those requests were and why she couldn’t share them – and then to learn how.

     It’s complicated, Gran said. We have so many lessons to learn about what true love is and about mastering our mind, ego and emotions, instead of being mastered by them. Luckily for us, sharing a sandbox provides plenty of opportunities for practice.

     On the upside, Gran said these lessons didn’t take nearly as long as she’d expected. One passing grade at a time her learning progressed, ‘til suddenly there she stood, a fledgling butterfly, wings still crimped behind her back, fluttering in the breeze as she began to flex them. She had finally reached the place where she could fly.

     Of course, that didn’t mean all the work was over. Just as Gran had learned to dismantle her walls, on the other side, she had to learn how to set healthy boundaries and how to invite someone in without letting them take over. For that matter, she had to learn whom to invite in, and how to go visiting without trying to take over herself. Even butterflies have to earn their wings.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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July 26, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Pearls (6/VII)

Filed under: Authentic self,Books,Companions,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Love,Relationships,Sharing the journey — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 10:46 am

Chapter 6 ~ Pearls

     Once we have our eyes and hearts open, this whole love thing can be quite fun. Gran believed the purpose of all relationships was learning about ourselves and about others – both sides of the story. Sometimes we do this quickly and move on, other times it takes a while. We may not be sure what draws us to someone, but if we dig deeply enough, she thought we’d get to the root of it.

     Being in any relationship takes a lot of energy, and keeping that connection healthy and happy takes even more. It’s not for the faint of heart. We have to be willing to work, to dig through some dreck, to see through the shadows we project at each other. Once we clear all this away, Gran said we’d see a whole other world.

     It’s like growing a pearl. Three pearls, actually – one for each person, and the third they create as a pair. Shut inside an oyster shell together, now that’s commitment.

     Gran believed the work these two grains of sand were drawn together to do began close to home. It began with themselves – they were the treasures they’d been brought together to uncover. This may sound romantic until you consider how pearls are formed. It’s not very glamorous. It involves sand in uncomfortable places for large amounts of time and a lot of rubbing each other the wrong way. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?

     We see our dark sides through each other’s eyes, the hotspots we’re here to work on. We become aware of things from our past that first shaped us and then shaped our relationships, debris that needs to be cleared before we can move forward.

     Some of our popular ideas don’t help, Gran said, teaching that we can start a new life with a blank slate, declare bankruptcy instead of paying our bills. She didn’t think this was very responsible, because it weakened our sense of accountability. There are ways and there are ways, she said, and there are also causes and effects, checks and balances, and records and memories that must all be tallied.

     It could be downright discouraging when those who walked that path encountered challenges, Gran said. That wouldn’t be right. She’d followed this road for a while, and when she reached the point where nothing felt fair, she started looking around for someone to blame for all her troubles, maybe even God. After all, she was a blank slate, so it couldn’t be her.

     Further along she learned about the scale of justice, which explained things a whole lot better. When sticky situations appeared after this, she understood that old accounts were coming into play again. This meant it was time for them to be resolved and healed, and that was truly encouraging – and just a little exciting!

     At the same time, Gran said, there’s no reason to focus on one’s darkness any more than on one’s light. Trying to move forward while only looking at one side is like trying to row with one oar: Your boat just goes in circles. Only through balance – looking at both sides – can that second oar ever hit the water.

     Then Gran would laugh, “Of course, I still have a lot to learn about this myself, so don’t listen to me!”  But she never backed down on one thing: Our greatest work is ourselves – you and I – confronting our pasts, our shadow sides, coming to terms with and resolving all these things, turning ourselves into those Pearls of Great Price we’ve so often heard about.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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July 19, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Fairytales and Treadmills (6/VI)

Chapter 6 ~ Fairytales and Treadmills

      An important part of communication is honesty – certainly with others, but also with ourselves. It’s amazing how well we can fool ourselves, Gran said, and she should know – she’d done just that.

     It’s like living in a fairytale. They’re not just for kids, you know. At one point, I looked around and realized I was living in a fairytale, at least that’s how it looked from the outside. Every component was there: Prince Charming rescuing a fair maiden, sweeping her off on his white charger to a far-away kingdom where they lived happily ever after. What a lovely story. I was infatuated with this story.

     Unfortunately, so was Prince Charming. We were both completely bonkers over the idea that we were the perfect match. It was so obvious. However, we hadn’t dug quite deeply enough in the relationship books to learn that once the fairytale ends, if you don’t have a foundation, well, you don’t have a foundation. And if you haven’t done enough work to be at home inside yourself, rather than just a character in a story, a wolf at the door looks even more threatening.

     Sometimes we run instead of facing the wolf, thinking it’s safer. Sometimes we just ignore him, hoping he’ll go away. And sometimes we play the mugwump, with our mug on one side of the fence and our wump on the other, having neither “heart to stay, nor wit enough to run away.”[i]

     Wolves don’t usually go away, though, ‘cause they tend to be hungry. And other times we’re so busy in our little make-believe version of Jack and Jill that we don’t realize the curtain has gone up on a different play entirely and we’re smack-dab in the middle of a tornado, a long way from home.

     When we look up and see how far away we are, we have a choice. We can commit to doing whatever it takes to get started in the right direction again, by being totally honest with ourselves and each other. We can choose to stay busy, to ignore the situation, convincing ourselves it’s only a dream that will fade in morning’s light. 

     But this world isn’t make-believe. It’s very real. So are our choices, and so are their consequences. That choice we confuse as the status quo – it isn’t. There is no status quo in life, Gran said. You may be coming and going, but if you think you’re standing still, you’ll soon see that things around you start moving on their own, like you’re on a treadmill. If you stand there long enough, you may fall off. I know, because I stood there until I fell.  

     On the positive side, the crash generally wakes us up. Then we have a few choices: Do we get back on the treadmill? Do we start walking or running or do we just stand there again? How many times will we climb back on the same machine? After enough falls, we tend to look for a different one. It must be the treadmill’s fault, ‘cause it can’t be mine.

     We think everything will be different then, and it usually is, in some ways. There are different buttons and gadgets and we have a spiffy new outfit and running shoes. But the basic rules of treadmill operation are the same. We have to keep our eyes open and keep moving. Otherwise the whole cycle just begins again.

     Sometimes after we stand up we realize that we fell, not because there was anything wrong with our treadmill, but because we were balancing between two bands running opposite directions. This becomes very apparent when the switch is turned on. There’s little we can do to change this – these things are bolted to the floor, and we only have the keys to our machine. If it feels right, we can turn ours around to run alongside our partner’s. But if our heart cringes at that thought, we may decide to step back on our own path, facing our own direction, before anyone else gets hurts. 

     Gran said she’d heard rumors that there was a way people could step off these treadmills, either alone or together, but she couldn’t speak to that, not having experienced it. This seemed to be a place beyond coming and going, beyond cooperating and consensus. But it couldn’t be reached by force, and it couldn’t be reached before one was ready. Maybe someday I’ll learn what this means.

     Whether we’re on a treadmill or the blacktop, or even if we learn to step beyond, Gran said, we want to always keep our eyes open for truth. It’s better for us, it’s better for everyone around us, and it also lets us check out the cool little hula dancer on the dashboard of the old van that just passed… 

[i] Samuel Butler (1835-1902), English composer and satirical author, in Hudibras, pt. 3, cto. 3

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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July 6, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Lost and Found (6/IV)

Filed under: Authentic self,Book Series,Books,Codependence,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Lost,Relationships — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 10:59 am

Chapter 6 ~ Lost and Found

     Remember Tina, Gran’s apple-butter-makin’ pal? Part of Tina’s journey included finding herself, before she could start communicating with herself. Gran said she and Tina were both experts at this process, ‘cause they’d lost and found themselves more times than either could count, and that was just on Monday afternoon before dinner.

     According to Gran, you didn’t have to worry so much about getting lost, as you did about getting lost and not even realizing it. Once you knew you were lost, you were already on the way home. But what was this really about? Gran said it was about losing yourself in the people around you.

     For instance, at one point in her life Gran calculated that, on average, at any given moment, she had anywhere between ten and two-hundred-and-thirty-three people in her life who each knew exactly what she should be doing, when, where, with whom, and why – all with very good reasons to back ‘em up. But she figured something had to be off when she realized that very few of these people agreed, and they couldn’t all be right.

     No matter what she did, she’d disappoint one and thrill another, someone would be mad, and someone else would have hurt feelings, and so on down the line. For years Gran had tried to find a balance between all these conflicting roles, trying to keep everyone happy, trying to please Person #35 and Person #72, who were, for all intents and purposes, diametrically opposed. (Try this sometime. It isn’t easy.)

     Gran got so good at this she could anticipate needs before others even knew they had ‘em.  As you can imagine, she gained quite a following this way, always taking care of and “doing” for others. But a few decades of this began to take their toll. Gran started getting tired, and she started feeling resentful, a little angry that she was always the one on the giving end. It hadn’t occurred to her that she could receive just as much as she gave. That she had the right to ask for her needs to be honored in return. That maybe she hadn’t really had to do all that stuff in the first place…

     That’s when Gran came to the stunning realization that she no longer knew who she was. When someone asked how she felt, she couldn’t answer. What did she like? What did she want out of life? Still no answer.

     Once again, in Gran’s well-intended but misguided attempt to give of herself, she had crossed the balance beam to giving up herself. Even all her houseplants reflected this, with drooping stems and fallen leaves that told her it was time to go home and stay home – to take care of herself for a while, to get her own house in order before she took on any more care-taking jobs for others.

     And so she did. It wasn’t easy at first. When Gran started saying, “I love you, but no” to people who had begun to count on her as their personal servant-therapist-chief-cook-and-candlestick-maker, she lost a few friends. But that helped her learn the difference between a real friend and a business account.

     The beautiful part, Gran said, was how true friends revealed themselves. Yes, the change in Gran’s behavior led to a few intense conversations. But they were good clear-the-air conversations, with both people healthier afterward. Sometimes clearing the air took more than one conversation, and sometimes it just took time. But, in the end, many of the “caretaking accounts” Gran thought she had lost turned around to reveal themselves as real, true friends – and that was a beautiful thing.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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May 17, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Cat’s Eye (5/X)

Chapter 5 ~ Cat’s Eye
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Remember that cat’s eye? Well, somewhere along the way Gran realized she had to learn to speak her truth to everyone around her. Gently but firmly, even when doing so came at a cost. For one thing, Gran didn’t think we were meant to have skin-deep relationships. She wanted real, strong, solid-as-a-rock connections. To her, that meant saying who she really was and being respectful when others did the same.

Besides, it doesn’t just cost when we speak our truth. Each time we don’t, that costs something, too – it costs part of our heart. That’s a long, slow death, Gran said, a road she’d walked before and was determined to never travel again. Her way took courage, no doubt about it, but one truth-telling session at a time, Gran had grown a lion’s share of courage. She showed me a way I didn’t know any human being could be – and I’ll never forget it.

And what about that positive attitude Peewee? It was vital, Gran said, ‘cause that one could make or break every other marble in the bag. We make our own heaven or live in our own hell, creating or destroying with that one little marble.

Gran had almost everything written on positive thinking since it became a subject, I think, starting with James Allen’s As A Man Thinketh. Now there’s a small book on a large subject. Lots of big words and it reads like the King James, but it’s worth its weight in gold.

Thanks to Mr. Allen, Mr. Carnegie and Gran’s resounding version of “Act enthusiastic and you’ll BE enthusiastic,” by the time I was ten I had enough positive energy to either cure cancer or get myself committed. And yet within a few short years I was in the same grey funk I’d later observe around the world.

In an effort to preserve the unpreservable, Mom and Dad instituted the Quarter in the Cusspot. The idea was simple: Have something negative to say? Fine, go ahead – then add your quarter to the cup. Did I say cup? How about milk jug. How about five gallon bucket.

For a while there family vacations were well-funded by this little pot, at least the way I remember it. I laugh now, but I had a few choice words to say about it at the time, just not where they could be heard, as I was running kind of short on quarters. Unfortunately, my negative thoughts didn’t leave, they just burrowed in more deeply, and I’m still digging some of those little buggers out.

Why did everyone think this was so important? It came down to the power of the word. Words are like seeds – they feed or poison us, depending on their fruit. They can raise high or bring low, through everything we see, say, or allow into our minds – even our thoughts. We knew this long before positive mental attitude became a catch phrase, Gran said. “As a man thinketh, so is he.”[i]

Gran also thought it was highly important to be impeccable with your word – to others, and even more so to yourself. Someone might not catch us in a lie, but we always know, and each time we say something that isn’t true, or tell a little white lie because it seems easier, we scar our own soul. That doesn’t feel good – not until we get good enough at it to block it out.[ii]

If only words of truth spoken from a place of love ever cross our lips, Gran said, the world will be a better place. This doesn’t mean we won’t sometimes find ourselves in a tough spot, but if we stay strong, the moment will pass. And even if it doesn’t, we’ll have the strength to get through it.  

After all, character building is what this journey is all about. Set the cornerstone, pour your foundation, and the rest of the construction will go much easier.

[i] Proverbs 23:7, KJV
[ii] For an elegantly simple look at impeccability, see Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home, The E-Book & Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set – Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

May 10, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Right Packing (5/IX)

Filed under: Authentic self,Book Series,Books,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Life Journeys,Marbles,Packing,Right Packing — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 11:30 am

Chapter 5 ~ Right Packing
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Once we’ve cleaned out everything and everyone, we’re ready to start packing. Gran put right packing up there with right living and right conduct. Her first suggestion: Pack lightly.

Gran’s routine was simple – one small suitcase and she was ready for anything. Besides, everything we need is waiting at home, and along the road our needs will be met. Gran had learned she didn’t have to take her entire closet and a gold card. In fact, the less she took, the better her trip went. It’s like dancing – you have to be light on your feet to enjoy it, and that’s hard to do when you’re dragging around a ninety-pound suitcase.

There were a few things Gran considered absolute necessities, but they couldn’t be packed in a physical sense, so she’d take along a little bag of marbles to remind her of the things she couldn’t see. The big, beautiful, yellow shooter stood for balance. Authenticity was small but solid, a soothing lavender clay, and then there was the peppermint-striped one for integration. An old brown Bennington stood for responsibility, a cat’s eye for truthfulness, and four little Peewee foils for a positive attitude and the spirits of giving, receiving, and gratitude. These also came in handy if you ran into someone ready to knuckle down for a good game.

Why were these so important? Well, Gran explained authenticity and integration by pointing out the one letter difference between the words life and lie. Those words meant plugging that F in there and making sure our life reflects our truth.

That was one reason why she’d gone back to her natural hair color, deciding to grow old gracefully. At the time this felt important, although later she realized it really didn’t matter what color her hair was. If she knew who she was, she could dye her hair bright pink and still be Gran. But if she wasn’t sure of this, she could let those roots grow ‘til the cows came home, and the only person who’d be fooled would be her –the cows wouldn’t care one way or the other. The point was, her decision felt symbolic of the changes taking place inside. She was making a statement about who she really was – and that felt good.

As for responsibility, Gran said this one was a real doozy. She believed we each have to leave home base both physically and emotionally, cutting the apron strings that helped us survive when we were short people (as Gran called youngsters, so she’d remember they were people, too). Until we did this, and processed the changes it entailed, we wouldn’t be ready to start our next journey. Gran said it had to do with independence and taking charge of one’s life.

Sometimes we detach those strings from good ol’ Mom, then turn around and tie ‘em to someone else. Not a good idea, Gran said. Once we’re grown up, like it or not, it’s nobody else’s job to take care of us anymore. Gran knew how tempting this could be – she’d been there, convinced that someone should meet her needs. She’d given away her power, played the victim, the martyr, the put-upon – this had seemed easier at the time. And yet, it wasn’t. It only meant she had to learn those lessons somewhere further down the line.

And what about the rest of those marbles? Gran said their stories went something like this…

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home, The E-Book & Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set – Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

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