Gran's Apple Butter Blog

December 13, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Home Stretch (7XI)

Chapter 7 – Home Stretch

So, where were we? Oh yes, coming into the home stretch. At this point we tend to punch the gas a wee bit, eager to pull in and put ‘er in park.

But there’s one home stretch we tend to dawdle on. Our final trip to that Big Rocking Chair in the Sky sparks mixed emotions, ‘cause this going home means saying “see ya later” to all the homes we’ve had here – the ones we shared with friends and family, the ones that held our hopes and dreams. No matter how much we want to go, it can be hard to say goodbye.

This can be hard on everyone involved – not just the one who’s leaving, who at least has a new adventure to look forward to. For the ones left behind, it can feel hard ‘cause they’re still in the old adventure, and one of their favorite players just left the team. Sometimes that makes it hard to keep going, to finish the race.

It can be hard ‘cause this represents change. Gran said she’d never gotten very good at enjoying that. The thing with change – we don’t know what that means. And we’ve been socialized – oh boy, have we: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. But is that true? I gotta say, in my life, sometimes what I found around that corner was a whole lot better.

We fight this change so hard we hold on much longer than is good for us. Sometimes because we don’t want to go for ourselves, sometimes because we don’t want to go for the ones we’ll leave behind. We know they’ll be sad and probably have to deal with some darkness until they figure out how to move on with their lives. We want them to move on ‘cause we love them – we may even tell them that. But we also know that most likely they’re going to forget this for a while. Sometimes a long while. And Gran said that was ok. It’s only human.

So we’ll hang around, dragging things out when we know it’s better to rip that bandage off all at once. Sure, it hurts like crazy. But Gran said at least then somehow the pain can seem a bit more bearable. She didn’t say how though. She didn’t always answer my questions, just like she didn’t always answer anybody’s questions. And for the same reason – she knew I’d have to figure out this one on my own.

This can feel especially hard when the person saying goodbye is young. When this happened, Gran would remind me of the saying about good people dying young. She suspected that might not be too far off, ‘cause when we’ve done our work the best we can, we’ll want to go home and take a rest – all this learning wears us out. So when someone makes this trip earlier than we’d like, Gran figured that meant this was just a fast learner – ready to move on, lessons complete. That didn’t make the goodbye much easier, but somehow the idea felt soothing, like a sip of peppermint tea on a hot summer day.

Sometimes we fear this journey so much we get stuck along the way. Halfway home, we can go no further, ‘cause that extension cord we’re hanging on to isn’t long enough. Or maybe someone roped the trailer hitch as we flew past, and there we are, dangling between here and there, lost in the darkness. There’s only one thing to do then, Gran said, and that is to lovingly and gently let go of anything we’re holding on to here, and to do what we can to help those left behind unhitch their end of that rope as well. They may not even be aware they’re holding on, but we’ll know it.

This applies to deaths of other things too – like the end of a relationship or a job, anything that means a lot to us. We go through this process consciously when we give up one thing to make space for another. Sometimes we know we’re doing this. Other times, Gran said, all we know is that something is going away, something has been lost, and we’re just hanging on for dear life.  

That’s when we have to be patient with ourselves and keep plugging away, following our path, even when it leads away from roads that have been a big part of our lives for a long time. Gran said it was very important to ask for guidance in these moments, to pray that highest good be served, and then to listen and watch for the stars that will lead you home. That’s when you learn to see in the dark, when you close your eyes and hold out your hand, trusting that Someone is there to take it, and then, follow your heart.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
Come visit: |


November 1, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Longcuts (7/VII)

Filed under: Along the Road,Book Series,Books,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Letting go,Longcuts,Self-sabotage,Surrender — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 1:10 pm

Chapter 7 – Longcuts

Sometimes we delay going home by heading off in the opposite direction. We may not realize this, attempting to convince ourselves and everyone listening that we’re on our way. Sooner or later, the truth will come out.

There are lots of longcuts we can take along this road, Gran said, from clinging to the past to obsessing about the future, neither of which helps us here and now. Fear is another big one that Gran was all too familiar with. Fear of going straight down the road in front of us, because we’ve all heard the stories: You can never go back. Maybe we kind of like back. Or maybe we’re not sure what lies ahead. Even as we step forward, we do it with a limp, one foot dragging behind, then we wonder what’s taking so long.

Never going back sounded scary, but Gran had learned it’s really not the way we think it is – at least it wasn’t the way she had thought. Each time we reach the end of a road, we’ve grown some and seen a few new things. We’re not the same people we were before. Everyone else has experienced new things, too, so they’re not the same either. We’ve all changed, and what we think of as our set-in-stone-home has changed as well, like a watermelon vine, never the same from the moment it sprouts. This can be more hopeful than scary.

There are other longcuts we can choose. Sometimes we take Path F because Path E looks boring. Depending on what lies ahead – and we won’t know that ‘til we get there – this can be good, or we may find ourselves sitting in some all-night truck stop down the road, panting for breath, thinking next time we’d be happy with a little boredom.

Maybe something inside us doesn’t want to stick to the tried-and-true. Gran said that was fine – sooner or later we’ll get there, as long as we remember that roads and routes can change. You can take the old familiar street across town, but it may take an hour to get through the holiday traffic around that new mall. Perhaps there are new roads – it never hurts to be on the lookout for these. We think they go the right way, but we’re a little nervous, ‘cause it’s been a while, and we don’t want to get lost or lose any more time when we’re this close to home.

One thing I learned from my dad: One should be cautious about taking shortcuts-that-become-longcuts. If we’re not sure, give that GPS a test: Ping those directions with your heart, and if the road feels right, take it. A balanced heart will never lead you wrong. Just make sure your heart is healthy and keep those batteries fresh at all times.   

It doesn’t pay to get stuck in our old selves, Gran said, but it will serve us to stay open, to try new ways. Just don’t forget the old roads. Maybe they aren’t as straight or as well-paved as that new interstate, but they used to get the job done just fine, and if you get lost, they can still give you a solid footing from which to map your new route.

One more thing: Once you’re sure you know the way home, if someone doubts you or encourages you to doubt yourself, don’t give up. No matter what. And don’t let any eye-rolling or book-thumping get to you, either.

This used to bother me, but Gran said to let it go. Each person has to find her own way, and all I have to know is what works for me. Besides, these paths and roads eventually all lead to the same place – you know, like Rome. In fact, Gran thought that’s probably what they meant to say, but they got the “R” and the “H” mixed up, which led to some very confused people for a very long time, and Gran’s insistence that I learn to print my letters very clearly.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
Come visit: |

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.
Come visit: |

October 4, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Fog Banks (7/III)

Chapter 7 – Fog Banks

It’s a good thing our hearts have such clear vision, ‘cause sometimes it can be hard for our eyes to see, particularly when the weather turns while we’re out and about. It does that, you know: Weather happens. Like fog. Fog settles on mountains highs and valleys low, and Gran said every road crosses a few of those.

Fog rolls in other places too, usually where the tide and our emotions are running high. In those moments we may feel like we’re lost in that grayness. Sometimes we’re standing way out on a pier, sometimes we’re sitting in a boat, and sometimes that boat has sunk beneath us and we’re floundering in the waves, treading water in soup so thick we can’t tell up from down.

I learned what this felt like, as Gran knew I would. I found myself in those waves not just once or twice, and I didn’t know how to save myself. Not until I ran into someone else who was also lost in that fog. From my vantage point, I could see that all my new friend needed to do was to stop fighting, to simply stand up and step out of the waves, like turning on a light in a dark room.

What my friend couldn’t see was that the water was only waist deep and the clouds were just a paper-thin veil in front of her eyes. She was already on the beach, she could feel the sand if she’d only put her feet down and stand up. Just one step forward would take her through that haze.

But until she could let go of the fear that kept her treading water, terrified that the next wave would be her last, until she could find the trust to put her feet down and know she would be taken care of, like Gran’s sparrows, well, all I could do was watch. All she had to do was straighten her legs and shift her weight to her own two feet. That’s all.

She even had helpers, although she couldn’t see them. Remember the ones who stayed on the other side? I could hear them calling from where they stood in the sunshine – “You’re here, you’re safe. Stand up!” But in her wild thrashing, she couldn’t hear them. They held out branches and threw ropes, but with her eyes closed she didn’t see those lifelines. She almost seemed determined not to see them. And that was all her helpers could do, because they knew these were her waters to conquer.

She had a choice. She could stand up by letting go, which would probably be the hardest, bravest thing she ever did in her life. Or she could stay at the edge of the waves, struggling until she was too exhausted to fight anymore, until the waves of her own emotions would take her under one last time. Even then she had a choice – to relax and float calmly to the surface, or to keep thrashing about until her lungs filled with water. She had a choice.

We always have this choice, Gran would remind me. But it’s up to us to make it. No one else can do this for us. It’s ironic how true that is. Even having seen the other side of my friend’s predicament, in my own fog banks I’d fight to the finish, choking down water and spitting out seaweed. Yet somehow, in the end, I always made it through. Just in time I’d catch hold of a branch or a rock and pull myself to safety, almost in spite of myself. Almost like I had my own helpers.

It’s like driving on a foggy night when your defroster isn’t working. You know what Gran did when that happened? She’d roll down her window, stick out her head and keep going, slowly creeping along. As long as she didn’t drive too fast, she could see each little yellow stripe at the end of her headlights. One stripe at a time, she always got home through the darkness, and bed never felt so good.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
Come visit: |

September 20, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Along the Road/Ready to Go? (7/I)

Filed under: Along the Road,Book Series,Dreams,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Letting go,On the road — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 11:41 am

Chapter 7 ~ Along the Road

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. ~ Miriam Beard

Here we are, all packed up and ready to go. We’ve stowed our map and checked the weather, picked our companions, and repacked our bags so many times we can list their contents by heart. Don’t forget one last bathroom run after all that coffee. Now the moment of truth has arrived. Everybody in? Seatbelts fastened? Sunglasses clean? OK, let’s roll, Willie Nelson on the radio, everybody singin’ along. Road trips are more fun when you sing, you know.

But wait: Did you just hit the GPS home button? Better make sure it’s got the right address. I had a friend who forgot to update hers after she moved. She wound up halfway to China before she realized she was on the wrong road. Later she told me she hadn’t really forgotten to do this, she just hadn’t been ready to let go of that old home yet, to tell herself “I don’t live there anymore.”

These things take time, Gran said. We’re the only ones who know when we’re ready to move on, and it doesn’t do anybody any good to rush things. One thing to remember: Using a really long extension cord is not the same thing as letting go.

Another thing Gran cautioned me about: Sometimes we don’t realize someone else is driving our car. We think we’re in control and we’re doing just fine, head hanging out the window with wind in our hair, when BAM! We get sideswiped or sidelined and all of a sudden we’re headed the wrong way or maybe we’re not even moving at all. We glare over at the driver until, if we’re awake, it hits us: Why weren’t we behind that wheel? When someone else is driving, Gran said, you never know where you’ll wind up.

Sometimes this is another person, maybe a designated driver we picked in a necessary moment. Other times we sit looking at our own hands on the steering wheel, wondering how we got there. We had the right map, plenty of fuel, only a few miles left, and the last we remember we were starting to sing. Then everything went blank, and here we are.

That’s a good sign we’ve still got some of those voices in our heads – the ones that don’t want us to get home too soon, for reasons they aren’t sharing.[i] In that case, Gran said, we better pull over at the next rest stop and do some digging, or we won’t get far on this one.

[i] Sometimes our dreams may be our first clue about this. If you find yourself cruising along in dreamland, try to see who’s in the driver’s seat. If it’s not you, better find out why


© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
Come visit: |

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.
Come visit: |

July 12, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Weight Limits (6/V)

Chapter 6 ~ Weight Limits

     Learning to communicate with ourselves involves looking for our own answers. This wasn’t how Gran was raised. She’d been taught to obey the words of her elders as though they were book, chapter, and verse, to look to others for the answers. Somehow, “others” always knew better, although Gran wasn’t sure just how that came to be.

     Our tendency to put certain people up on pedestals concerned her. For one thing, Gran didn’t think anyone deserved to be in charge automatically, whether by birth date, body part, or bullhorn. The responsibility of leadership had to be earned.

     Other than that, Gran believed we should respect and love and care for each other, just as we do for ourselves, that old Golden Rule. But that was a long way from looking to others for our answers. As we journey along, Gran said, it’s important to make up our own minds about things, rather than counting on someone else’s fingers. It’s like copying homework. If you don’t study the lesson yourself, you won’t realize when you mark down a wrong answer, which can lead to a whole heap of trouble and an awful lot of red ink.

     Besides, Gran had heard about the dangers of high altitudes on top those pedestals. The air gets thin up there, which makes it hard to think clearly, and sooner or later can lead to toppling off. Gran said she’d crashed enough times to develop a healthy respect for heights, so she’d quit climbing on pedestals about the same time she quit trying to stick ‘em underneath other people.

     It was tough when she first started looking for her own answers. The hardest part wasn’t the search itself, though – the hardest part was letting go of her guilt for daring to look for her own answers in a world that doesn’t overly encourage self-determination. Daring to disappoint others is never easy, especially those who are sure they know the answers, and especially if those people are important in your life. But, she said, it was well worth the effort.

     One thing about it, trying to transfer do-it-my-way answers to someone else can be a pretty heavy load on a relationship bridge – well over the double-axle weight limit. Bridges collapse under all that weight, Gran said, and the people they connected go separate ways. They may try to rebuild that connection, but sometimes they don’t.

     Whatever they decide, those who learned from that experience tend to put up bigger weight limit signs on future bridges, and pay more attention to the ones they see posted.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
Come visit: |

May 3, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Lighten the Load (5/VIII)

Chapter 5- Lighten the Load
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

As far as packing light, I remember Gran talking about a time when she thought that to stay true to herself, she was going to have to leave behind everything in her life. It seemed like her current path held an awful lot of contradictions to the person she was inside, the life she wanted to live to express her authentic self. She’d reached an either/or crossroads, she thought.

This was scary, and she fought the idea, insisting that everything could be exactly the way she wanted it, while inside part of her was pretty sure it couldn’t. But she didn’t want to listen to that part, thinking it was only the voice of fear. She was just sure if she tried hard enough she could shapeshift that crossroads into an and/plus.

After all, that question came from an old place where she didn’t want to live anymore – a place of scarcity, where there was never enough to go around. Gran’s new world was a place of abundance, where there was always enough. At least, she wanted to see it that way, but that either/or voice hadn’t given up just yet.

The funny thing was, after waging this internal battle long enough, Gran was so worn out all she could do was sit down and accept – accept the place where she found herself, right here, right now. She didn’t have any strength left to fight anymore. Amidst a lot of tears and a lot of fears, she surrendered to the possibility that she was right where she was supposed to be.

Amazingly, after she genuinely accepted this idea, she found out she really didn’t have to change that much at all. It wasn’t so much what she did, as how she did it – where she came from on the inside. The only things she’d had to let go of, apparently, were her attachments and expectations about where she should be and what she should be doing, things that were just a clever cover-up for her need for control.  

True, some things shifted around her as she grew into the Gran she truly was, as things that weren’t working too well either healed or took on a different shape. And that was just as it should be. Overall, everything got better, in and around and all the way through.

It reminded her of the poem about setting something free. Many amazing people had lived this, people like Viktor Frankl, who accepted life as it came to him, as it was. Frankl found a way to live his life on purpose and in peace in the Nazi concentration camps, discovering his most important freedom on the inside.[i]

What else might we want to take out of our luggage? Well, that depends on the person. Gran said she’d chosen to let go of pleasing others and of looking outside herself for answers. That was a sneaky one, ‘cause sometimes she’d be sitting there congratulating herself on not falling for that old trick when all of a sudden she’d realize she’d done it again.

Just like they would later be for me, books were Gran’s big downfall. For years she read every title that might have anything to do with her journey, looking for the one that had all the answers, when she really only needed to look inside, for the one who had all the answers. After enough years of switching maps, she realized this hadn’t gotten her any further than sitting in the front row, so she took a self-imposed sabbatical. She thought she’d try listening for a while and see how that went. According to Gran, it went pretty darn well.

Not that there’s anything wrong with reading. Gran eventually went back to her studies, sifting through pages like she was panning for gold. But she was reading from a different place than before – looking for a truth, not the truth. Reading with lots of questions, with her double-billed detective hat on. She found a lot of pull tabs that way, but she also found some amazing treasures.

Sentence by sentence she built a firm foundation for her beliefs, one that was strong enough to be flexible. Gran’s foundation sparkled in the sunshine, I noticed one day. I guess it must have been all those little nuggets of truth.

[i] Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, a disturbingly beautiful and life-changing book

© 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!

Create a free website or blog at