Gran's Apple Butter Blog

February 14, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: The Big Front Porch (8VIII)

Chapter 8 ~ The Big Front Porch

One home-coming Gran and I often discussed was death. No surprise, she had her own ideas about our final destination, and being Gran, once again, they were all about love. She used to say she reckoned that after death we probably go somewhere kind of like her front porch. You know, a happy place with loving faces and the feeling of being home again, like you’ve been there before. And maybe there will be your own Nanna or big brother or favorite uncle. Just sitting there, waiting like Gran in her rocker, big smile on her face, big hug in her arms, and that special hairspray smell only your grandma had.

When it’s time for this trip, you’ll know, Gran said. Lessons complete, pencils put away, lunchbox ready. The bell has rung, the little yellow bus is waiting outside. It’s time. This doesn’t mean that just for a moment you won’t wrap your feet around your chair legs and stubbornly hang on. After all, some of us like school. Then again, who’s to say we won’t be back tomorrow anyway? And what about third grade?

But for now, it’s time to go home, take a nice long nap and spoil your dinner. If you’re not partial to sweets, this might involve a fishing pole or a hammock and the world’s Best Book Ever. Whatever you need to feel like you again, ‘cause by the time we reach that final front porch, we’re just all in.

First things first: Milk’n’cookies. There will be plenty of time to do your homework. For now, just listen to the crickets sing you to sleep, waiting for sunrise when it all begins again.

The next morning, after you’ve had a good long rest, maybe you’ll head back to that front porch again, in a completely different state of mind, fresh and whole, chapter complete, remembering Who You Really Are and what you’re all about. You’ll be ready to look back at your day, your life, and to chat with some good friends about the whole thing.

You see, Gran thought our lives are kind of like projects, based on her dream, with tasks and milestones and objectives that all contribute to the whole. As any good project planner will tell you, the success of a project depends on having a good team behind you, pulling the same way on the rope. And sometimes the most valuable part of a project is the evaluation that comes at the end.  

So when you go Home that last time, Gran thought you’d have another project meeting, this time on that front porch, rockers circled ‘round, lemonade for all. The whole team would come in, including Grandma, Uncle Joe, and your kindergarten bus driver, and you’d all take a look at the master plan you designed so long ago. You’d look at how things went, and do some Serious Thinking.

How did it go? Did you break a new record? Find some new way of doing things that no one ever thought of before? Or did you slip up here or there? Miss a deadline? Forget some piece entirely? It’s all learning – or it can be. As long as you’re learning, Gran thought that was the important part. There’s nothing like personal experience to drive a lesson home, that’s for sure.

Once all the cookies and team members are gone (that’s usually closely related), when it’s just you and the Great Grandmother on the porch again, you can have a real heart to heart. You know, the kind you only have with your grandma. Maybe you’ll talk about what you wanted to accomplish, and She of the Greatest White Rocking Chair might ask if you were happy with what you’d learned, or if you’d like to give it another go ‘round, a do-over.

After your big talk is done and you’ve all but overdosed on cookies, maybe you’ll head to the backyard, looking for the tire swing or Snoopy the Beagle. Maybe you’ll just hang out on the steps for a while, passing the time, content to be close to Gran once again.

Maybe Gran was right with her ideas. Maybe she was totally off. But somehow the idea of a big front porch and a great white rocking chair really resonates with me. Or maybe it’s just ‘cause I miss Gran so much. Who knows.



One thing Gran said about that front porch: The whole do-over idea was quite different from what she’d been raised to believe. It stretched her mind a wee bit past her comfort zone, but she was kind of hopeful, as that would greatly ease the pressure of getting all her ducks in a row in just one go-round. She had a lot of ducks, she said, and some of them were pretty unruly and disinclined to cooperate.

Besides, even those who are sure about do-overs don’t agree on all the details, she said. She’d decided it didn’t matter if it was true or not, at least not to her. When it came down to it, Gran thought what mattered was whether this idea helped us understand more about ourselves and the lessons we’ve chosen. Any tool that helps with this is worth keeping polished and handy in our little tool boxes.

It’s like dreams, Gran said. Some people put a lot of stock in recalling their dreams, analyzing them, learning from them. Others say that’s just a bunch of unrelated hogwash, bits and pieces of memories and day-to-day life that come together in a Hungarian goulash, more likely a mishmash of one’s favorite sitcoms than anything meaningful.

Here again, Gran looked at dreams like any other tool, be it a screwdriver or a pair of pliers. She’d ask herself, was this useful? Was there anything she could get out of this, whether it was real or not? If so, her dream was helping her learn about herself and her life, maybe why things were the way they were, or why she did or didn’t do this or that, or even whether she should lay off the late night spaghetti binges.

As long as we were letting our imagination run free, why not follow and see where it goes? True to her mystery-loving roots, Gran’s imagination led her to the idea that perhaps our dreams are doorways into other worlds. What if, while our bodies sleep at night, we go visiting these other places, like channel surfing during commercial breaks? We might as well keep things entertaining, she said.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Gran never quite bought the idea of living happily ever after. Sure, you’re home. That’s great – enjoy it! Stay a while, hang out, eat some fresh pickles and try the cornbread, but don’t start thinking this is It. Life doesn’t work that way. Have a nice visit, ‘cause soon it will be time to journey on to your next home, wherever that may be.

I know what you’re thinking: I just got here! It’s not that we don’t want you to stay (although that three-day rule for guests and fish might have some crossover application), but if you sit in one spot too long, you’ll get bored and probably develop bad breath.

Besides, Gran didn’t think we were meant to sit any one place indefinitely. Our legs are too long for that, she said, and even our bodies tell us this – too much sitting leads to stiff joints and wide margins. And no matter how great home is, sooner or later we’ll feel the need to remodel, or maybe just see the other side of the world.

When that day came, Gran said, it would be time to start looking at those 3 P’s again, and time to say “Aloha.” You know, that word that means both hello and goodbye and all kinds of other nice things? It’s perfect for this, because the same road that takes you in your front door may be the very first step on someone else’s big adventure.

That’s why Gran said to never try to make someone else take the same exit you’re on. It may not be their time or place, and we don’t want to make such an important decision for another person. It goes against free will, Gran said, and focusing too hard on someone else’s road is a good way to not notice we’re headed down the wrong one ourselves.

So for now, back to the road. The sunset is calling, and sunrise to follow, and I can see Gran, far up ahead, the tail lights of her little hot rod twinkling in the distance.

Aloha, Gran, sweet friend. Travel well.

© 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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October 25, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Checkers (7/VI)

Chapter 7 – Checkers

Frequently our journeys involve an overnight stop or two. Maybe a tire blows out and has to be special ordered from Wesleyville. Maybe we run out of resources and have to rustle some up before we move on. Gran said this was all part of the trip, although she suggested we avoid hotel-motels with extra large ice chests and lonely male clerks. She never explained that one.

She did explain that our homes-along-the-road reflect who and where we are, just like our starting points and the home we’re headed for. This is easier to see when we’re out and about, ‘cause it’s hard to whitewash walls when you’re on the move, in which case we tend to either ignore the grime or focus on it a little too much. During times of transition, Gran said, people’s homes often reflect a similar split.

This happens because we don’t feel at home when we’re in between. The house or hotel or roadside park we land in reflects this with a general state of disrepair. The place itself is on edge, like the people living in it. Others may create a perfect bubble, with all the right elements in all the right places, clean and quiet, a living, breathing museum. And that may be all it is: An empty bubble, a shell of a home.

Our houses reflect more than we probably want them to. Gran said she’d seen this after bridges had been burned beyond repair and the end result was the big D word – Divorce. Divorce feels just like death, Gran knew, and it can leave us in emotional shambles.  

We may feel like life cheated us, robbed us of a dream. We may feel hurt, guilty, bewildered, furious, sad. We may feel like we didn’t get to say a real goodbye. Maybe we feel things might have turned out differently if we’d had a chance for one last do-over, or if our playing partner would have tried just a little harder, cared just a little more. We may feel angry that this person didn’t want a do-over. We may feel all these things at once, or we may just feel numb. We may even suspect that we may have had more to do with this than we’d like to admit – and we may not be ready to examine this possibility any more closely just yet. Working and learning through those emotions takes time, Gran said, and it takes courage. After all, it’s easier to hold on than it is to let go.

The thing is, whether we were living in a bubble or a grease-pit, it’s hard to wake up someone who’s pretending to be asleep, and it’s hard to notice signs that our egos are determined to ignore. The fairytale ends abruptly and everyone feels cheated, just like when someone gets frustrated while losing at checkers and “accidentally” knocks over the board.

Life can feel pretty crazy as we’re trying to pick up all the pieces while keeping one hand on the wheel and an eye on the road. There’s also the big job of figuring out where our new path leads, ‘cause changes this big tend to have quite an effect on our trajectory.

About that game board: Gran said it really doesn’t serve us to play holier-than-thou, to pretend it was an accident, or to play the victim. Nor does it serve us to pretend we didn’t see the frustration building in our checker-playing partner. These situations can help us realize how desperately we’ve been blocking out things we didn’t want to see, and can help us take a good look at our plays-well-with-others skill set.

If you can’t play nicely, Gran said, you shouldn’t play at all. But then, we already knew that, didn’t we?

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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April 13, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Patches (5/VI)

Chapter 5 ~ Patches
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Remembering our early years was a bigger loose end than she’d realized at first, Gran said. Then she’d remembered those words about becoming like a child to enter the kingdom, and it all made sense. [i]

We want to take our inner child with us on this journey, so we can see through those eyes and love with that heart. At the same time, we also need to parent that child in healthy ways, to meet our emotional needs and make ourselves feel safe, and to encourage ourselves to have fun just because we want to. [ii]

Of course, we also need to be able to say no when our inner child wants a few too many popsicles or decides the road makes a good playground. Sometimes we may even have to give ourselves a time out, Gran said, but before we do that, we need to figure out where these urges are coming from, which ones are fine and dandy and should be honored, and which ones are just a little too ego-based for our own good.

Some of us have maintained this inner connection, and some of us have lost it. Gran’s inner child wasn’t even on speaking terms with her for a long time – wouldn’t look her in the face, that little girl was so angry. She was mad ‘cause Gran was giving all her attention to everyone and everything else in her life – and keeping none of it for herself. Little Gran was determined to make those feelings known in one way or the other – stepping in at all the wrong times and the worst ways, trying to get that grown-up’s attention.

You know kids, Gran said, they’ll do just about anything to get attention when they need it, even hurting themselves in the process. Until we give them that attention, these children within will try to fill this hole with all kinds of things, from big screen TVs and thirty pairs of princess slippers to unhealthy relationships and even unhealthier habits. We try to patch our holes this way, but it only holds so long, ‘cause this isn’t what we really need. Sooner or later that patch will fall off, and we’ll start trying to fill that hole again.

Eventually it may occur to us to look inside, and when we do, we’ll find the perfect patch kit waiting there. Gran thought that’s one thing our imagination was for, to help us fill those holes. We can get really creative with this – there’s no end to all our options.

Gran’s favorite way to make a patch was to go outside to walk in the trees, listen to the birds, and talk to the flowers. Sometimes I’d walk with her, just for fun. She’d talk to a little flower, then she’d stop for a minute with the strangest look on her face – almost like she was listening – like the flower was talking back. I’ll never forget that look.

One of our favorite ways to make a patch together used our ears: We’d listen to music and we’d dance around and sing as loud as we could, whether we knew the words or not. No matter how big that ol’ hole was, before long we’d have a perfect patch glued on, guaranteed-for-life. Of course, if that hole came with a sniffle, sometimes Gran would have me drink some fresh lemon juice or eat a raw onion. But most times plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and good music would work wonders.

For the biggest holes, Gran suggested I try some Serious Breathing, the long, slow, deep kind. This sounded like napping to me, but even that can be pretty good when you need it. Gran practiced her breathing every day, just a few minutes at a time. More than that interfered with her gardening. She’d light a candle to help clear out the cobwebs, and then she’d just breathe and breathe and breathe. She did admit there was a possibility she was napping here and there, though, ‘cause sometimes she’d wake up with beautiful pictures of home in her head.  

Gran’s friend Marnie said that knitting did this for her, while Uncle Bob used tennis shoes and a long straight road. Gran said anything that let you sink down into yourself in some way would work, just like when she and I would fall into a song and be the music.

To me this sounded a lot like prayer, and that was good, ‘cause I had a lot of practice with prayer. I even had a little book with all my favorite ones. Gran said that little book and the times we sang together and talked to flowers was the best cure for a tummy ache and a very good way to tempt your inner child out of the corner she’s had her nose stuck in for so long. And so far, Gran’s usually been right.

[i] Matthew 18:3-4, KJV
[ii] Think about it: When was the last time someone told you to “Go have fun”?

© 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!

March 2, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Open Eyes (4/VII)

Filed under: Birth Home,Book Series,Books,Family,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Grandma,Home — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 10:38 am

Chapter 4 ~ Open Eyes
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

One thing about it, once we start looking at home base with our eyes open, things are never quite the same. Not in a bad way, though. Open eyes are a good thing, even if sometimes they let us see things we’ve been trying to ignore for a long time.

Gran said no matter what we see, it’s wise to take a good long look at the place and time and people we chose to be born to. In the best of all worlds, our families give us life. They nurture and protect us, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, helping us grow and learn. Our parents do the best they can for wherever they are in their own lives, but sometimes when we look back, we realize home was not as supportive and nurturing as we might have hoped.

As grown-ups, we can rewrite the stories that fill us with so much pain. We can look back with love, no matter the situation. This may seem difficult, nearly impossible, but it’s something we can choose to do for our own growth. Sometimes we take this step for our families, and sometimes we do it for our own survival, knowing that any anger or pain or resentment we harbor in our hearts does us even more harm than the pain we endured in childhood, however great it may have been. When we protect this pain inside, Gran said, it will only grow bigger and bigger until it consumes our soul.

Gran’s childhood held its share of these memories. Some things she’d tried to ignore for a long time, to save relationships, not wanting to let her anger take control, when it seemed that was all she had left inside for those she felt had hurt her in her most vulnerable times. She’d finally gotten past all that, she said, because she knew it would only hold her back. It wasn’t easy, but Gran said it helped to imagine these people as they were when they were small children, when they were experiencing the good and bad in their own lives, the light and darkness that would shape them into the adults they later became.

When she would picture her family’s faces at age five or eight or ten, Gran said she couldn’t feel anger at them anymore. Looking in their eyes, she could only feel love and sorrow for whatever they had gone through, and compassion for the wounded child they still carried within. She tried to remember this whenever she’d encounter one of these people later in life, still carrying those festering wounds. A tirade of angry, judgmental words might burst from their lips, but Gran could only hear the voice of the child underneath, crying “It’s not fair!” one more time.

Life isn’t always fair, Gran knew that better than anyone. But she also knew that sometimes, we aren’t in a good position to recognize what is fair and what isn’t. It isn’t fair that we can’t eat the whole bag of licorice, or stick that screwdriver in this light socket, or tell the kid on the bus that his eyes really will stick that way. Life can be cruel that way, ruining our fun, raining on our parade.

Yet, from a higher perspective, the One who says no, who takes away the bag, makes us apologize when we’re finally ready and really mean it, or simply takes the screwdriver away in spite of our screams, that One knows that in the long run, maybe even in the short, we’ll be better for it.


Either way, Gran said the most important thing to remember about home base is that it belongs to the past. It belongs to who we used to be. If our memories are free and light and good, wonderful! We can celebrate them together, and release them with joy, just as we do with all parts of our past in order to be healthy and move forward. Even holding on to good memories can throw us off balance.

If our memories are heavy, we don’t have to carry them anymore. If judgments were harsh, we no longer have to accept them. We don’t have to beat ourselves up for who we are, for who we were, for expectations we met or those we didn’t. We can stand courageous and strong now, in our own power, centered in all that we have learned about ourselves, in who we have become.

As one wise woman put it, “All you have to know is who you are.”[i] And there we begin.

[i] Oprah Winfrey, Howard University Commencement Speech, 12 May 2007

NEXT WEEK – starting Chapter 5!

© 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!

December 14, 2010

Going Home, Excerpt: Rules for the Road (4/II)

Filed under: Books,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Home — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 2:14 pm

Chapter 4 – Rules for the Road
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Part of what Gran heard the people talking about in her dream was the Rules for the Road. You remember: the other sign hanging by her goal list. After all, if life is a journey, it makes sense that there would be travel tips, maybe even a guide for the weary wanderer.  

As near as Gran could remember, the rules went something like this:

  1. You will be supplied with a body that has certain gifts and certain limitations. Your lessons include learning how to work most effectively and positively with all of these.
  2. You will be born into a family from whom you will learn certain things, and to whom you will teach certain things. These people will be your primary influence.
  3. You will grow up in a particular community and society that will further shape how you see the world and everything in it. This will be your second greatest influence.
  4. You will meet new people throughout your life from whom you will learn certain things, and to whom you will teach certain things. These will be your third greatest influence.
  5. You will have many chances to learn about yourself and to make choices that will influence the direction, the speed, and the difficulty level of your journey. These opportunities include everything from kindergarten to the street, from the books you read to the places you go, from the work you choose to the people you hang out with, from the music you listen to, to all other things that you allow into your mind, where they become part of you. Before you come of age, the responsibility for these choices will lie with your parents. After you come of age – the age of accountability – this responsibility will shift to your own shoulders.
  6. When you have made your final choice, learned or taught your final lesson, fulfilled your contracts, and taken your final turn, your journey will be complete, and you will return home, to the joy and delight of those who will miss your presence here for so long.
  7. When you are born, you will forget all of the above. This is your greatest challenge.

The purpose of each journey was clear, Gran said: To meet as many of one’s goals and learn as many of one’s lessons as possible while living in the Here-and-Now. From what she’d heard, this wasn’t always as easy as it sounded, and she understood that the group was discussing best case scenarios.

While hoping, planning, and preparing for the best, everyone knew things might not turn out that way, because others, besides Gran, had their own lessons and goals to learn and achieve. Some of those might not fit with Gran’s plan, or maybe her expectations – for herself or others – might be a bit too high. Each person would do the best they could, but their plans might have turned out a little differently too, in which case they would find themselves in a whole new ballgame. This was all part of the journey, though, and Gran had the impression that some of those unexpected lessons might be the most valuable ones.

One thing Gran realized she’d been blessed with: That prize-winning okra? Apparently she got a body that came with two green thumbs, ‘cause she’d accomplished that goal a long time ago.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
Download Chapter 1 or order your copy at!
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set. Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!
and Going Home: The E-Book, both released 11/28/10. What did you get YOUR grandma for the holidays?

December 7, 2010

Going Home, Excerpt: What’s It All About, Mikey? (4/I)

Filed under: Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Home,Mikey — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 4:10 pm

Chapter 4.  Home Base – What’s It All About, Mikey? 
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another. ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Now that we’ve considered the big picture, we can get down to brass tacks.

Every journey has a starting point – home base. Gran believed our original home exists somewhere far back before we were born, before I was Mikey, before she was Gran. And as near as she could figure, the whole point of being born is to officially enroll in our next grade in the school of life, in preparation for our ultimate journey, although she wasn’t yet sure just what that might be. Based on this, our reason for being here is to learn and grow, and everything we experience is part of that.

For starters, if we’re eternal and immortal beings, as Gran said her heart and those big books said we are, then it only stands to reason that must work both ways – frontwards and backwards – we always will be and we always were. I was good with that for from-here-on-out, but this brought up an interesting question: Where the heck were we before?

This was a little hard to grasp, but Gran had a dream one night that helped us understand, ‘cause it was in all colors and used short words. In the dream she was in a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful place, a place she knew was her One Real Home, and it was full of love, so much love it almost hurt, the kind of love that makes you cry with a smile on your face.

In this place she was surrounded by her real family, her real friends, familiar faces as well as a few new ones she didn’t recognize. Everyone was very busy, while Gran sat watching them, a little mouse in the corner. Gathered around a drafting table, heads down and foreheads wrinkled, they were hard at work drawing up a plan.

Gran, being mouse-sized, scrambled through their legs and up onto the table so she could see the blueprint they were working on. To her surprise, across the top she saw the words My Life. Then she looked over to the side and was even more amazed, because there she stood! A younger version, but no doubt about it, it was her – Gran There.

Things got even more interesting when she realized all these people were talking about her. They were in a planning session, a meeting she herself had called. Gran There was designing the life she intended to live as Gran Here-and-Now, and each person had a role, who they would pretend to be in this life for her, what character they’d play, what lesson they would help her learn.

Being Gran, she had a big list of things she intended to work on. Gran Here could see a corner of that list over Gran There’s shoulder, hanging on the wall next to another sheet that read Rules for the Road across the top. Squinting carefully, she read:

MY LIFE: Goals & Lessons
1. Patience
2. How to grow award-winning okra
3. Unconditional love
4. How to ride a bike
5. Trust with discernment

Gran couldn’t read below that line, so she sat back and listened as each person came forward to accept their assignment, signing their contract with her, the one they would fulfill in this life. One person was agreeing to be her dad, to hold the back of her bike so she could learn to balance. Another was agreeing to be her mom, to teach her how to fry okra. Those were the supportive roles everyone wanted.

But there were other roles – harder, trickier ones – like the person who agreed to break her heart. Why would she want someone to do that, I asked, ‘cause that didn’t sound so nice. But Gran said she understood in her dream that when she was young, she would trust too much, as children do, not listening to her budding instincts. To learn this lesson, she would have to have her trust broken. When her naiveté no longer served her highest good, Gran would learn to trust with discernment.

This role took someone special, someone who loved her enough to agree to hurt her, in a time and place when neither would consciously remember why this was happening. It takes a lot of love, Gran said, to do something like that for someone when you know they may end up hating you for it.

Some of the people in Gran’s dream agreed to stay on that other side, instead of coming here with the others. They could help her more from there, in ways Gran didn’t quite understand in her little mouse-form. She thought it had something to do with love and good vibes.

On and on it went, an endless parade of people who loved her, coming in to pick up their puzzle piece for this life that was to come, Gran There debriefing them on their tasks, each signing “Yes, I’ll do it.” At the same time, Gran was agreeing to do certain things for them, to serve these people in some way, like flying the plane for the guy who wanted to sky dive.

Gran didn’t want to leave, but her little mouse ran back into its hole, and POP! There she woke up, Gran Here, sitting in her bed, eyes big in the darkness, trying to remember everything from that list. But the memory was fading too quickly for her to jot down more than these few lines in the journal on her bedside table.

Gran said this was her most amazing dream ever. It helped her see her life entirely differently – her life, as well as each person and experience she encountered in it – because now each time something would happen, she’d stop and think: What was that contract we signed again? I agreed to this!?!? OK, what am I supposed to be learning here?

Gran hadn’t yet met the guy who wanted to sky dive. But she thought it was about time she got her pilot’s license, so she’d be ready.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
Download Chapter 1 or order your copy at!
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set. Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

November 24, 2010

Going Home, Excerpt: Hope, Faith, Trust (3/VIII)

Filed under: Books,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Home — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 12:57 pm

Chapter 3 – Hope, Faith, Trust 
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

One thing about it: You can always go home. No matter what anyone tells you and no matter what you’ve experienced, take it from me (or my grandma, if you prefer): You can always go home. Like Gran would say, all that fear stuff we’ve heard about is so wrong she couldn’t even begin to tell us how wrong it is. But one thing she knew: Going home is all about the love.

It’s always this way, although sometimes we let our fears get in the way and make the whole thing into something it really isn’t. Like when it comes to our families – sometimes we don’t want to go to that home because we’re pretty sure it’s gonna be a short, sweet trip involving at least one small explosion. But in your real home – where people truly love you and support you in finding your own way, ‘cause everyone’s got their heads and hearts on straight – you don’t have to worry about being punished or raked over the what-you-did-or-didn’t-do-coals.

Life is funny, Gran often said. Sometimes it feels like we’re caught in a current when we think about going home. We fight so hard, struggling against the flow, just sure we know our own way. And yet the ironic thing is, if we could ever relax enough to let go of whatever we’re clinging to, that same current we’re fighting will sooner or later carry us home.

Sometimes it’s just around the corner, but as long as we keep up our endless and often pointless struggle, we’ll never realize that if we’d just turn and look downstreaminstead of up – we’d find we can already see the lights of home. It’s one of life’s great paradoxes: The hardest thing we have to do is also the simplest. All we have to do is let go.

We resist this, afraid something will go wrong or we’ll get hurt, or worse yet, our pride will get bruised. And here’s the thing: You never get that pain-free guarantee. Never.

But until you let go, you’ll also never be able to get home. So when you feel like you need to hang on to something – and we all have those moments – Gran said the best thing to hang on to is trust. Trust that everything is happening just as it should. And faith, that at some point – usually in the rearview mirror – you’ll be able to see this clearly. And hope, for what lies ahead.

When you hold on to these things, and only these things, it makes the ride so much easier. And sometimes, if you check the fine print down the side of your map, you may find it reads, “Don’t worry. It won’t take as long as you think.”

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
Download Chapter 1 or order a copy for your grandma at
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set. Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

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