Mama Kate

Life is generous with its lessons. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve all encountered many teachers. This is the story of one of mine to whom I’m deeply and enduringly grateful. 

Katherine Jones was born in 1896 in rural Pike County, Georgia. She was one of seven children and said to be the most beautiful of the five Jones girls.

She married John Clements when she was 19 and was widowed at 26 when John died from gunshot wounds received on 12th street in downtown Columbus, GA. Their only son was 2 at the time of his father’s death.

A news account from the time stated that Katherine was in critical condition from nervousness following the death of her husband, but by the time I knew her, she was the most carefree person I’d met so far. She was my Mama Kate and that 2 year old was my father. He remained her only child and I was his only child. She loved us both extravagantly, but we rarely saw her because she was always on the go. She was my lighthearted, world-traveling, exotic, glamorous grandmother.

But, oh, when she came to town, she brought laughter and sunshine. She thought I was beautiful and talented and could do anything I wanted, and, when she was around, I thought so too.

Mama Kate, widowed at age 26 in a time when there were few options for women’s employment, when women couldn’t own property or have a checking account, and had only recently gotten the right to vote, was a single mom and a liberated woman long before either became fashionable. She was the first person in our town to own an automobile. She played poker with the men, and won, and laughed out loud.

In our small town, grandmothers were people who went to church and cooked Sunday dinner and wore plain clothes. Mama Kate came to town once or maybe twice a year, wearing her elegant outfits, telling stories of distant places and interesting people, and then off she’d go again. When she was there, the world became a brighter, shinier place, a place with charm and laughter and excitement. A place of possibility, a place where a girl like me might find her future.

I wish I knew more of her story. Much of it must have been hard. I don’t know how she made her way up and out of the critical nervousness that followed her husband’s death or how she managed to care for her son. I don’t know what gave her the courage to become or where she found the strength to carry on. I don’t know how she had the wisdom to break the rules that needed breaking.

But I do know this. Because of Mama Kate, I always knew that the world was a big and fascinating place. Because of Mama Kate, this little small town Southern girl always knew that a woman could dream and dare, and sometimes laugh out loud.




















The Thinker

Feelings aren’t facts…..or maybe not.

There is a phrase that is often quoted among those who are interested in personal growth and healing – feelings aren’t facts. I’m not sure where it originated, but it’s been around a while and I believe it’s helped a lot of people. That’s reason enough to keep repeating it.

However, I don’t really agree. I actually turn it upside down and say, “Feelings are just facts.” In order for this to make sense, you’d first need to know that I’m not that impressed by facts. There are probably hundreds or thousands of facts that make up any reality, any moment, any situation. But those facts, singly or in combination, are never quite equivalent to the truth of the matter. And I think truth is ultimately so much more important than any fact could ever hope to be. So, it’s a fact that I’m sometimes grumpy and it’s also a fact that I’m sometimes easy-going, but neither of those facts represent the truth about who I am, which is both of those and everything in between because I’m a complex, complicated, ambivalent human with a wide range of moods and aspects and an ever-changing flow of feelings – just like every other human being.

So, a feeling is a fact. It’s a fact about now, this moment, and one I’d be well advised to pay attention to. Our feelings are there for a reason. They arise from a deep, ancient part of ourselves that only wants the best for us. Though often misguided in terms of their response to this present situation, they are always true and real and meant for our good. And they always have a message for us. Sometimes the message is factual about the present situation – if that lion is chasing us, it’s our fear that tells us to run. If our sweetheart smiles, it’s our tenderness that smiles back. And sometimes, the feeling doesn’t fit the situation at all, but it still carries a message that we need to hear. And that message is about who we are and where we’ve been and also about where we may need to go.

And that message is the one we most need to hear regardless of its relationship to the “facts” of the situation. My fear tells me that I’m feeling unsafe. It may or may not describe accurately the current situation, but it’s impeccable in its description of my inner state and that’s the information that will help me most. Of course, I do need to make some discriminations about how well my feeling fits with the external realities and base my response and my decisions within a context that contains both my feeling and the realities that my good rational mind observes, not one or the other.

To deny my feelings is to deny myself. And the practice of self-denial, carried out day after day over a lifetime, leaves me disconnected from myself and thus disconnected from life. The only possible route to wholehearted participation in life lies squarely in the path of self-awareness. When I can know who I am and accept who I am and work hard to become the best of that, then and only then can I fully receive the gifts on offer and make my contribution in return.

So when I feel something, it’s a fact! And I can take that new information and use it to learn and grow and become the best of myself. Isn’t that wonderful?