Monday, December 16, 2013

Fun, fearless, oozy, and sticky.

You just gotta love a good save on a sign. Oh yeah, baby.

There are these two women I know named Katie B. and Carol R. And both of them are what the Grady elders would call "just good folks." And me? I'd agree with that and also just say that both of them are just amazing. Amazing in the sense that they both have that rare gift of genuine selflessness. The kind that gives behind scenes but always makes others feel important right out in the open. And this? It's a quality I strive to have but that, admittedly, does not seem to come as natural to me as it does to them.

I first met them both at what was originally Isaiah's school. Katie out front directing traffic and children and keeping the peace in her Katie way and then later Carol when the heavens opened up and made her Isaiah's teacher. And sure, I've met many, many wonderful people through the boys' schools, but I admit that these two just sort of had this lingering effect on me that made me want to keep them in my pocket for good. And you know? They've allowed me to do just that.

So before I tell you about what I did with them this weekend, I will first just need to tell you a little more of what makes them special. And that list is long so I will have to give my own Cliff Notes version. They are so good at noticing others that I want to do the same for them.


Okay, so Carol. She has known joy and pain. And I also know that she has known sunshine and rain. That I know for sure.  And what I will say without saying too much is that she knows first hand that extreme and unnatural pain known only by people like my parents and others who have lived through the unspeakable. But despite the pain and the rain, the joy and sunshine are what always seem to ooze out of her. And like all things that ooze . . . her oozy joy sticks to other things and people and is hard to get off of you once it gets on you. She is one of the people (besides my sweet Sissy Deanna) who taught me to (try to) lighten up more when it came to my children, especially Isaiah,  and to enjoy them more. As a teacher, she has always been honest about every aspect of who my kids are, but supportive in this way that reminds me not to sweat the small stuff. And damn I've appreciated that. Damn, I have.

You know? I loved her immediately after meeting her. I mean that. Like, she looked at me and Isaiah on that first day and shook our hands and her oozy-sticky-joy just stuck to us. And you know? Even my son Isaiah knew what an amazing teacher he had in her because one day--not even six months ago and more than two years after being in her class--he was thinking about the days that he gave her a hard time. And you know? That boy started crying. With the most serious face ever he told me, "Mom, she was so, so good to me. She was so, so kind every day and sometimes, Mom, I wasn't so kind back." And he started crying these big, fat, wet tears when he said it and I didn't even stop him because she was kind to him. And I think her kindness is what was making him cry. At least that's the effect kindness always has on me.

Anyways. That Carol R. is superkind and amazing. And just "good folks."

Then there is Katie (also known on this blog as Coach B.) Oh Katie. Whenever I think of her I think of those awards given out in like, I think, Glamour or Cosmo or one of those popular womens' magazines to a small group of "FUN, FEARLESS FEMALES."  Because even if she never goes near those magazines, she is certainly that. Fun and majorly fearless. At least, that's how she seems to me.

So I came to know Katie initially as an acquaintance in the carpool lane. Our relationship was limited to hand waves and big smiles and that was that. So really, then, I didn't know her. But when Zachary started school, he attended afterschool care there since Isaiah's aftercare wouldn't take pre-K kids. Which, yes, I'm crazy for doing but yes, that year I picked up my boys from separate places even though they attended the same school.

Uhhh, yeah.

But it was a godsend that Zachary had to go there because Katie was there. And not only Katie--Carol, too. They actually run the afterschool program so this gave me a chance to get to know both of them a little better. But there was something about those moments with Katie that I will always remember. We'd chat for a few moments as I waited on Zach and they would always be so rich and special. It was then that I learned of her daughter (a Grady nurse!) and her engagement to a very, very special and good man and also that I heard all the details of the greatly anticipated arrival of her first grandchild. And every time she shared on her family her entire face lit up in this way that made me feel like I knew them. Or at least that made me want to know them.

I've mentioned it before but will mention it again--one day I got stuck in some hellacious traffic on the way to pick up the boys. And I was literally almost a half of an hour late. Now. If you know anything about childcare you know that for every minute you are late, it's usually like fifty trillion dollars. And you get this hairy eyeball to boot. I guess I don't blame them since the folks who run childcare places have lives, too, and they need to make the punishment grave enough to get parents hustling.


So anyways. I was so, so mortified. I was. I kept calling the centers and letting them know I was running late and going as fast as I could but half of the time the phones went to voicemail or someone just answered and said, "Okay. Got it." Which, to me, was code for "Just come on already." So finally, finally, finally I pull up to the barren driveway where all the parents and employees have since come and gone. I tear into the building huffing and puffing and feeling like the worst mom ever. And what do I see? Katie. Calmly sitting on a chair next to my baby boy reading him a book. And reading in this soothing voice that was the antithesis of me and my frantic phonecall apologies.

"I'm so, so, so, so sorry!!!!" I panted. And then I started sifting into my purse to pay for the overage right then and there.

Katie looked up--still so calm and kind--and smiled. This warm, gentle smile that literally spoke to me without words. Her expression said, "Peace be still." Or "Namaste." Or something. Either way I immediately felt less anxious. I did. But the best part was that my child did, too.


And can I just say that I wanted to cry at that moment? I mean, I did. And you know? I have. I've reflected on that moment so many times and quietly wept. Really for the same reasons Isaiah was crying when thinking about Carol R. and how sweet she always has been to him no matter what. The kindness. That kind of kindness just gets you in the heart and makes you cry.


Do you know she wouldn't accept my money? Coach B. saw how freaked out I was and told me to take a deep breath and that all was well. And I hugged her neck tight and vowed to myself to never, ever forget how much I appreciated her making up her mind to be so kind to me that day. And every day. Because she was kind and is kind to me and my kids without fail each time.

Good folks, man.

Oh! And Katie is totally Team S.J.G.R. all the way and even ran the half marathon on Thanksgiving with us. Yes! She kept reminding us that she is "a lot older" than us even though we'd all kill for her legs. Hello? So yes, she was out there running strong with that same warm smile of hers. And that was super awesome, too.

Yeah. So that's them. And yes, there is a lot more to them but this would be longer than it already is. So I will limit it there.

 And now, this.

This weekend. Yes, on Saturday. We joined them at the Men's Shelter that Katie directs (yes, directs!) for the annual Christmas dinner. All of the kids in Carol's class (Zachary has her this year--yay!) and a few others who have stayed in her oozy-sticky grasp decorated and then served a fine meal to the men. And thanks to Katie and Carol and a host of others, the men were given some other things that will surely make their lives a little easier if only for a few days.

Oh and before I even say one more word: Here is where you can find Katie's awesome blog "A View from the Sidewalk: Concrete Reflections" about her experiences at the Men's Shelter. So please--check it out.

Where was I. Oh. The evening. Saturday. At the Men's Shelter.  Yes!

Yeah, man.

It was a magical evening. It was magical because of the truly amazing wonder powers of Katie and Carol and how they've taught scores and scores of children how not to be afraid of regular people. See, it isn't set up in the way where the kids and volunteers are on one side and the gentlemen on the other. No. Everyone was intermingled and chatting and laughing. The men even sang carols and the kids just twirled and danced right along with them. Sure did.

Oh! Katie arranged for Santa Claus to come which was a HUGE hit with all except the Manning boys. Uggh. Those boys seem to take great issue with imposter Santas. Mmm hmmm.

Here's what was going on behind the scenes with the Manning boys when Santa walked in and as all the *other* kids were stampeding him.

Me:  "Hey boys! Do you want to go and say hi to Santa?"

Zachary:  (twists face so hard in the such a bitter-beer expression that his left eye winks shut) "Maaaaaaan. That's totally not even the real Santa. So totally not even."

Me: "Zachary! Duh. It's his representative."

Zachary:  "That's what you say every year. But I don't want to talk to the fake Santa. Or his 'presentative."

Me:  "But he talks to the real Santa. Like directly."

Zachary:  *twists face up again and then sucks teeth. Then walks away.* 

Me:  *looking around for the other child* "Isaiah! What about you? Do you want to go over and see Santa?"

Isaiah:  "Um, no thanks. I'm pretty certain that's not the actual Santa. This is a very, very busy time for the real Santa and I'm sure he wouldn't be here. Not now he wouldn't. That's just a man who dressed like Santa. And don't say it's his representative. Because I don't believe in Santa representatives." 

Me:  "What about a helper?"

Isaiah:  "Uhhh, yeah right, Mom. That's just a dude with a beard. But I like that he has that real beard. It's not the kind people just put on so that's cool. Do you think he grows it just for Christmas? Or does he keep it in the summer, too."

Me:  *sigh*

See? As far as my kids are concerned, they absolutely still believe in REAL Santa. But the mall Santa and the shelter Santa representatives? Fuggeddaboudit. The Manning boys say they can kick rocks. Ha ha ha. I'm sorry, y'all.

And you must admit that it doesn't get any better than this Santa. Hell, I wanted to run over and hug him. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that I did.

What else? Oh! The BHE was there and so was Grandma Shugsie. Carol asked the BHE to man the fort at the downstairs front entrance where they issued the gifts and admitted folks. And I tell you it was a perfect job for him. You had to be tough and have a perfect hairy eyeball to unleash when necessary. Oh, and don't get it twisted. That fun, fearless Katie is TOUGH, TOUGH, TOUGH and if she hadn't been keeping things flowing with Carol, she'd have been down there herself.

Which reminds me: Now I see what makes her daughter Jessie such a perfect Grady nurse. That toughness is definitely in the DNA. Ha.

Oh and guess what else? And on top of all of this, my sis-in-law Fran was there with three of the four Draper kids which made this totally awesome-er. In her very Fran way, she was working hard, hard, hard the whole time.  I also  loved that my big ol' varsity baseball playing nephew David was right there, too. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

See? And I really think all of these people came as much to serve as they did out of their love for Katie and Carol. Those two truly amazing women who have already chosen to shape lives as educators and who on top of all of that give of their time and effort at this shelter long after the Christmas bells stop ringing and it's no longer sexy to be there.

Yes. I said "sexy."

So I'm rambling, I know. But really the point is just that I am so much better for knowing these two women. And their kindness not only to me but to my family and so many others is just something to ramble about. It is. And it might sound weird to say this but I feel very proud to be a part of their lives. I do.

So today I am reflecting on Katie and Carol. Two completely different women who have uniquely touched my life. And especially during the most wonderful time of the year I want to package up my appreciation in the form of this blog post to tell them so.

Katie -- thank you for your fun and fearless example. You rock. You do. And Carol -- thank you for your oozy-sticky web of goodness and joy. I will always remember -- even when it seems like I don't  -- the many legitimate reasons you could use to hang your head and  not spread your joy the way you do.

You women? You're just truly amazing and especially you're just good folks. And to quote the Grady elders once more, I'll say what I could have said in far less words:

'Preciate you.


Happy Monday. And here is another shameless plug to link to Katie's blog in case you missed it earlier. . . . plus an image of what happens at the Mens' Shelter after the party and every night thanks to people like them.

Here's a couple of old posts that include these two truly amazing women and also one with another year we went to the shelter.  Hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed revisiting them.

Little shifts: The post when I realized how much I'd miss seeing Katie (aka Coach B.) after we stopped attending the school-based aftercare. And when I remembered how gracious she was that day I was late.

Twelve steps: The post after Carol helped me to learn to enjoy my child instead of worrying so much.

Stuff:  One of my favorites, actually. This is the post from the first time we came to the Men's Shelter with Carol and Katie.

And bonus: The post with my kids last year with the Mall Santa. This post made me LOL today!


  1. This is super special! Wish I could have been there. Thanks for sharing!


  2. (No need to post) Merry Christmas to you and your family, Kim!

  3. Beautiful post about two amazing women. And that was such a special night.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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