Humility in the Ugliest Car Ever!

exploring the world in “style”

I went to see my Mom for Mother’s Day today and took my cross stitching with me. It was nice to sit and reminisce while I worked. We talked about the olive-green monstrosity that our family lovingly dubbed the “Mount’in Car.”

Now I can’t tell you exactly what kind of car it was, but I can tell you it was a drab olive-green, a station wagon of some sort, and it sat an entire Girl Scout troop once going on a field trip.

There was a bench seat in front with the standard parallel bench seat behind. Then another two sitting back to back behind that. There was a door that opened across the tail end of it and if you sat in the rear-most seat, you got to ride backwards. One door, the passenger side door as it were, was smashed in just enough for that door to be rendered useless.


It was the ugliest car I’d ever seen.

And My Daddy paid 75.00 for it. He came home from work one day and announced his purchase to my mom and said they needed to go and see about this car, to make sure it was still parked where it was supposed to be; there seemed to be some confusion as to whether his frugal purchase was actually going to be there.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the car and the gut-wrenching horror that I’d have to ride around in that thing. The car we loved to hate eventually became a car my mother loved—it sat so many people!

We had to have it towed home. I am not sure what all my Daddy had to do at the time to get that terrible monster of a car running; but we nicknamed it the “Mountain Car.” I am not even sure how we came up with that name, only that there could have been a thousand other ugly names perhaps more suitable.

I know the picture is blurry, but this is the only picture I am aware of that we still have of the Mountain Car as all five of us (me, back left and my three brothers and my sister) dressed up in our Easter Sunday finest posed with the beast.

The front passenger door you can see is ok, but the door behind that was crushed and this is the door that my middle-school aged self would have climbed out when Mom dropped me off at school, if it would have opened properly. Instead I had to crawl across to the driver’s side and take an embarrassing walk around the back of the tank of a car to the greeting stares of my classmates.

I begged her to please please just drop me off on the corner. Nope. Mom pulled up right in front of the school with a car full of kids and dropped me off right in front of the cool kids. God, I hope they don’t remember this as clearly as I do.

My mother did grow to love the car for the simple reason that we all fit comfortably and could spread out throughout the back, which probably cut down on the bickering between siblings as she drove. Friends had plenty of space too and it came in quite handy for Scouting expeditions.

We all grew to love the companionship and comradery, the experiences we shared as a large family on the road. I only remember breaking down once on the side of the road and hanging out with the strangers that lived there while we waited for my Uncle Mark to come and help my Daddy make the repairs.

We went everywhere in the Mountain Car. The most memorable experiences I had was when Dad would come home and say, “Load up, we’re going to look for deer.” Now this meant the same thing every time; we’d make the trek over to Morrow Mountain and drive slowly so that we could scan the woods for white-tailed deer. We’d stop the car and count any we could see. This was our way of having fun.

I remember seeing a great-horned owl swoop out of the trees and right up the windshield, wingspan as wide as the window. A family of skunks with their little black and white waddling babies crossing the road and climbing into a stump hole. A deer with a severed tongue hanging plump and pink from its mouth—Daddy found the Park Ranger to report this. We saw the tiny fawns with their spotted backs. Learned the term “button buck.”


We felt alive, there on that mountain, our olive-tank blending in with the trees.

Occasionally we’d hit the hiking trails for a bit, but the hiking adventures were usually a day of their own. Dad would select a kid or two for a day of hiking. I knew those trails well.

On the way to Morrow Mountain was a little dirt road that cut off a portion of our drive by a mile or so. It was a shortcut we termed the “Dukes of Hazzard road.” Dad drove quicker than a dirt road called for and we watched the dirt cloud swarm behind us, imagining that we, in our ghastly Mountain Car, were in the Dukes of Hazzard fleeing Roscoe and his “good ‘ol boys.”

We called him “Rosco Pico Train.” We really were “somethin,’” we thought.



I am not sure whatever happened to that car. I know my two sons have had similar stories with some of the questionably functional cars I have had; some costing me less than a month’s rent and purchased sight unseen. “Does it run?” was about all I’d ask. Humility, getting by. Getting to work no matter what, breaking down often…these are things a lot of kids today do not experience.

It is wonderful to ride around in a comfortable car, AAA on the ready, a button that sets the alarm or opens the doors. It is another thing altogether to pry open the groaning smashed door that Daddy finally got to open and slide across the bench seats to fight for window space and head out to explore the world as a family; no laptops, no cell phones, no tablets playing movies just to keep our minds busy and quiet.

We had each other.

And we stared out the windows counting cows or looking for deer. Who cared at all what the “cool kids” would think? I am sure they didn’t even know where the “Dukes of Hazzard road” was and that was their loss. The humility we learned in that car came in the form of grand adventure, and that was worth 75.00, for sure.


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A Yellow House in Iredell County

A poem — to immortalize a love worth telling and a house that carries their memories in its heart

Mamaw and Pop pictured there in the center. Their love, the family, and the home they built together are the inspiration behind this poem.

Nestled… in the dappled Spring sunlight 
peeking through oaks, maples, and Tulip poplar 
is a country house with pale-yellow siding.
Across a corner of the weathered 
wooden-slatted front porch, a vine lazily 
stretches to find a spot in the sun.
 
Inside, the navy-blue carpet runner slinks 
up the beautiful wooden stairs that 
Pop built with bony-knuckled, work-deep hands. 
He’d have worked quietly, smiling as he thought
of the lovely young lady with the yellow flower
behind her ear, that caught him by the heart 
some fifty years past. At the wane of her 
she rang the bell, a silver tinkling call.
He shuffled to her bedside, leaned close.
“Pop, will you hold my hand?”
 
The front parlor is very much the same; 
an old-fashioned sitting room 
with milk-cream white, antique furniture, perched 
on mahogany clawed feet, elegance immutable, 
unmoved. A portrait of my young mother 
hangs there on the wall in ornate frame,
her eyes the foremothers to mine.

Arising there, a China cabinet, its gifts enclosed in a hug.
Atop a pedestal table, hand-sanded and love-stained, 
Mom’s Christmas cactus trails and cascades in forest greens
awaiting pink-winged petals, alighting in season,
a crescendo of bloom framed in autumn-light 
meandering through remembrance like a dream.
Mamaw’s spirit lingers there, her high-bubbled laugh 
carrying on like a song, her quiet dignity still holding 
together the air that holds up this house. 
In the kitchen she makes her list, there at oval
table; the names of all the children she loves.
Do you see her sitting there?
 
There are so many children here now.
 Pop would have snagged them one by one 
with a devilish grin, with navy-socked feet 
smelling of sweat and dust, and of the garden
where his watermelons juiced and plumped
on the vine. Wriggling, giggling children
were no match for the snare of Pop’s feet.
His tender chuckle rolls quietly by on the wind. 
 
Presently, titmouse and chickadee
swoop down from the trees to gather black
sunflower seeds, meal worm, and millet;
their warbling chatter and brief staccato chirps
a cacophony of tales wrapping a yellow 
house in Iredell County with enduring 
melodic memory. At night, a yellow house 
sleeps with a smile.


Thank you for reading A Yellow House in Iredell County.

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The Choice to Love: A Step-Mother and Daughter’s Journey

Sharing my “Mother’s” Day Journey with my daughter


My daughter Abigail and I, on a regular “day in the life of” — those are the best days.

When I first met my daughter she had just turned five; a raging ball of emotion and wildness that overwhelmed and captured everyone in her midst. She didn’t just live her life at the tender age of five; she barreled through it with reckless abandon.

I have often told Abby that she’s a runaway train. It is my job as her mother to keep that train on the tracks and help her navigate the complexities of life, but also to do so with wellness, character, and yes, joy.

I won’t lie here — those first few years were hell.

Abby was not very fond of me; this new person in her father’s life. One who told her what to do and then held her to it. She has admitted to dreaming up ways for me to meet a quick and painful demise.

I am glad that I survived those early years because it was totally worth it.

Abby was a mess. There’s no nice way to put that really. The first time I met her, her father had brought her over to my home and as we talked in the kitchen, this five-year-old loud, laughing, running-through-the-house kid drug a chair from the table and climbed up on top of my kitchen counter, shoes and all, to rifle through all of my grocery items.

What on earth is this child doing? I don’t know about you — but I was taught to ask for things. You don’t just climb all over people’s kitchen counters!

If I had only known the wildness my parenting would have to endure. The consistent emotional outbursts (some of these were hours of ongoing wails or fits), the calls from school (most of this involved impulsivity and hygiene issues,) the near-violent invasion of personal space…if asked to go play or do anything in her room, at the absence of any other human being for more than a minute, Abby became weepy or had a full-blown meltdown. This time limit of a minute — no exaggeration. Dealing with these episodes, mixed with the almost frantically excited bursts of play and noise — we were all exhausted.

Nights consisted of at least one or two screaming nightmares, sleepwalking (or flailing) events, and nearly nightly night-terrors that were traumatizing to her father and me while she never remembered them. She woke up refreshed and ready to tackle her day. We did not.

I wouldn’t mention those things to embarrass my daughter and I certainly wouldn’t mention them if she weren’t a fantastic young lady who has grown immeasurably. She is a fine young lady. Her ambition is to be a doctor. To take her form Tasmanian Devil to doctor is quite a challenge — but God knew I was mean enough and stubborn enough to handle it.

Abby was suffering from a terrible trauma (due to the absence of her birth mother and the issues arising from the time she spent with her previously,) but also some mental health issues that were literally dominating the entire family.

Our child was suffering and we knew it.

We loved her. Entertained her constantly. We did our best. We cried a lot of tears at night, spent and consumed with worry. Are we doing this right?

Will this child ever love me? — I worried and worried.

I worked on developing more structure for her — this was crucial, I feel, in helping quiet her wildly intelligent but challenged mind. I knew that somehow, if we could be consistent, and if I did NOT abandon her, things would get better. This took time.

I encouraged her to play outside, started her in Girl Scouts, tried my very best to teach this hysterically laughing, farting child to be a lady. (I am still working on that part.)

It was a terribly difficult process for growth: her tornado personality mixed with my OCD, my need for space and quiet — I thought we’d all go crazy those first couple of years. But I grew to love her deeply.

But watching her suffer through some of these issues was heart-breaking.

Something must be done, and we all knew it.

It took a few terribly difficult years before we secured the insurance/stability/ability needed to have our daughter evaluated. We knew what was happening was beyond our scope of care, and that something had to be done before this emotional child became a teenager and had all of those challenges to face.

I am grateful that we finally took her in for some help. Mental health issues, some quite serious, run way back in Abby’s family and I was terribly worried about some of the behaviors I was seeing. Sometimes it takes an outside “eye” to see things more clearly. While the family saw it — this child is hurting, but her “mother” did blah blah blah!… — it was easy to feel so much compassion and love, to be so close to the situation, that it was hard to know what to do.

I think everyone just kept thinking she was just upset about her mother being gone, and eventually, she’d heal from it. And they were right, partially.

I saw so much more than that. I knew this was more than missing her mother or not understanding why things were the way that they were!

I saw dangerously sharp mood turns, unhealthy repetitive/obsessive coping mechanisms, fear and anxiety, depression symptoms, all juxtaposed with wild and uproariously fun (to her, but not always to other children) play, and a dozen other things that worried us…I just wanted her to be well.

And happy.

And play like a child — but without the constant worry that permeated her thoughts.

(And oh, she did play! And I am happy we all survived that too. She did, felt, and loved everything 200% — regardless of consequence!)

The diagnosis — and not just by a quick conversation with her doctor — came by way of a long evaluation. She was diagnosed with ADHD, depression, and anxiety. None of this was surprising to us, but we were very relieved to have some reassurance, a plan!!

We began medication (which has changed her life,) learned as much as we could about how to help her now that this had a name and started her in counseling, which continued for 2 years. That was 4 years ago.

The final healing came with the severing of the strained and distant relationship she had with her birth mother. This was Abby’s choice and we support her.

Abby now OWNS it. And, she is a PRO at life, let me tell you.

She is a nearly straight-A student. She is a fierce competitor in sports at her school, well-respected and loved amongst her peers and I fully expect her to be a leader, a mentor, and a compassionate advocate for any pier under duress or with need. Abby is a creative, energetic, ambitious, self-assured, happy young lady.

This beautiful spirit — once choked by mental health garbage — is now able to function. To fly. To sing without tears.

In short, she is amazing. My daughter is going to do something fantastic with her life — now that the cobwebs of an unruly mental health situation have been cleared away, her life brought into focus — and I am honored to have been a part of it.

She calls me Mom.

I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel for having this child, this beautiful, funny, articulate child in my life. Her mind works very differently, but we teach her ways to manage it, capitalize on it, use it to her best ability. And we teach her that she DOES NOT have a mental illness(s) — she has mental health challenges.

And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up

— I’ll Rise Up (song) by Andra Day

And she is fierce enough to rise to that challenge. And I am one persistent Momma.

We GOT this Abby. We do. — Love, Mom.


Thank you for reading this incredibly emotional part of my journey. Abby was very open to the sharing of this article, in that it might help some other person her age who is suffering, or feels alone, that there truly IS healing out there.

Cottonwood Wings

a poem for my son to read at the funeral


You might want to read this first



In the Spring, God brings forth life
Cottonwood drifts by on the wind.
We water our gardens with tears
for we have lost a dear friend.

Her kindness grew like tulips
Proud and colorful and tall
Her compassion, a vine reaching  
our lives and touching us all.

Our beloved Beverly was so
Warm-hearted, sweet, and caring
Loved her family with all her soul
Though cancer, in the end, unsparing.

A kind and quiet woman who
grew like the flowers
and paled into silence
in her last waning hours.

Her Spring was cut short,
Her candle burned low,
in God’s precious time
she knew she must go.

Though it’s hard for us
in this bountiful spring
we let go and know
God’s given her wings.


I was asked to write a poem for my son to read at his Step-mother’s funeral next week.

He is to speak at the funeral, at which time he will read the above poem, no doubt through shaky nerves (to my knowledge this will be his first “public speaking” engagement), and through a heavy wall of emotion. He is with-holding so much emotion about this whole thing.

As a mother, my heart is breaking for him. He has no memories of his life prior to her entering it. It is a terrible loss. How in the world do you honor that in a poem? Yet, this is the task I was given.

To make it simple enough for the country-folk family members to be able to appreciate, make it rhyme so it sounds to them like a poem, make it personal enough that it touches their hearts, Christian enough and reassuring enough so that they are comforted in their time of sorrow.

What an arduous task, but I wanted to do something. And this is what I do–so I hope you have enjoyed reading Cottonwood Wings. I am honored to have written it for my son. (I think it will mean a lot to him.)

(In Memoriam, Beverly Mullis; wife, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother, friend)

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