Tara Joyner Haussler is a master storyteller. She and I became acquainted through a blogging group and have followed each other since then. She is an extremely talented writer and the really impressive part is that every day she tells a new story. I like to think of us as blogging sisters, except she’s the one who does it every day and I’m not. She can take the mundane and turn it into insightful and soulful prose. She has a beautiful spirit and she really gets this thing called life. There’s something else that you should know about her – Tara is the catalyst to my auditioning for Listen to Your Mother. One simple text from her prompted me step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. I would have never done it had she not sent that text and I wouldn’t be part of this year’s Austin cast. I am so grateful that God put me on her mind that day. Thank you, Tara! Here she is in her own words:
I Have Stuff To Do
When I was little I had several nicknames given to me by my parents. Mama called me her “Sugar Tag” all my life, right up until she left this world. She also called me “T Annie” as a variation on my name. Both of those give me warm fuzzies still. The moniker that was less than ﬂattering was “King George the Pontiﬁcator.”
They called me this because I had no problems speaking my mind and pontificating about what I thought should happen and how life should go. I was their ﬁrst and then three years later, the oldest, so I was all about sharing how I thought things should go.
I’ve always been a scriptwriter about my life, apparently.
The thing is, I had stuff to do. When my Daddy built a wooden stool and painted it blue, I put it out in the front yard and worked hard to do a running jump over it “Evil Knievel” style. I took a Sucrets Throat Lozenges tin, put a liquid papered white paper clip inside, and used a rubber band to wear it around my wrist as I became Isis or Wonderwoman. I was ready to take on the world. And save it. It was a job I was convinced I had to do—all before I was ten.
I went to the library and checked out stacks of books at one time. I remember sitting in the doorway to my room with each one opened to the ﬁrst page, deciding which book to read ﬁrst. There were whole new worlds ready for me to explore. All I had to do was turn a page. I had stuff to do. And those new worlds were going to help me do it.
When I started college, it was deﬁnitely a new world that saw me into my twenties and launched me on the path I was meant to take. My twenties found me married, working with families who needed community and support, and loving on children who were not my own. I was in my element and then I became that other person—one I cannot imagine not being now.
Mama. I held my newborn daughter in my arms for the ﬁrst time and was in love, excited, exhausted, and terriﬁed all at the same time. I had a new little human to raise, and she needed me.
I had stuff to do.
As I entered my thirties, it was just me and my girl. Because of her, I stood up for what I wanted her to see was okay. I wanted her to have the strength to walk away from what wasn’t, and so I did that myself. I went back to school so, in the words of my Daddy, I’d “be able to take care of her no matter what happened.” I grew in ways I’d never imagined. I became more accepting, less judgmental, and a much more emotionally healthy person. I was given the privilege of walking beside those who were doing the hard work of letting go and dying when I worked for Hospice. The gift of sharing that journey with so many beautiful and funny and spunky and gentle souls will always be kept in my memory box of greatest treasures. While walking that path, I met the man who would become my partner in this life and who would take me to Japan to live for two and a half years. I studied art beside elementary school students and fell in love with cherry blossoms. And rice. That decade my heart grew by four more feet—I gave birth to
my second daughter, born in Japan, and then my son, a Georgia boy through and through. It was almost like starting over, and I ﬁnd that as an older mother, I do things differently. But always, always with the same mother’s heart that I started this journey with. I encourage, discipline, feed, clean, listen, teach, soothe, entertain, and learn from them each and every day. They are my world, and because of them, I knew.
I had stuff to do.
When I turned 41, my world was ﬂipped upside down. My heart was breaking in all the little pieces. My Daddy had been diagnosed with lymphoma of the brain, and we had no idea what that battle was going to look like. It was an atypical case, as he was told he should have succumbed to it months before. Two weeks after my 43rd birthday, he left this world for a better one. I had no idea how I would keep breathing without him here. But I did. I had stuff to do. Mama needed me. Or rather, I needed her to need me, so I wouldn’t have to admit how much I needed her. And how scared I was of a life without her. Fifteen months later that became a reality. She was tired and her body just couldn’t hold on any more. And so she left, but not really. I feel her riding along beside me as I drive down the old roads, or as I hold her new grandson that she didn’t meet on this side of life. I see her in the smile of my children or hear her in the tenderness of their sweet words. When my middle child pats me on the back to comfort me, I know my Mama is there. And I give thanks for the way that shores me up.
Because I have stuff to do.
I no longer think it’s my job to save the world as I did when I was eight or fourteen or twenty-two. The Sucrets tin is long gone, and I wouldn’t even know where to get another one. I know that there is brokenness and heartbreak and sometimes the darkness is overwhelming.
But I still have stuff to do.
My word for this year is “and.” Sometimes I add a “so” to that. “And so…..”
I have hope. Hope that if we are kind to one person that it will ripple out and that there will be light in the darkness. And so, I try to be kind more often than I am not.
I get up in the morning. There are mornings that my years catch up with me and I just want to stay in the bed. But I know that there are little people depending on me, and so I get up.
I have stuff to do.
Sometimes my grief overwhelms me. The smell of the spring air that takes me back to Granny’s farm, a story I want to tell my Mama, advice I need from my Daddy—they can catch me off guard at the most random of moments, and I have what I call grief-induced memory loss. But they would all come back and give me a talking to if I gave up because I miss them. And so, I keep on keepin’ on. That was one of my Mama’s favorite sayings.
I have stuff to do.
It’s not the life-saving work that I might have imagined myself doing many, many years ago, but it’s good. I do the day-to-dailies and try to remind myself that the little things matter too. I’m learning that it’s harder to parent a nineteen year old than it is an infant. I’m learning that math the second time around doesn’t get any easier. Puppies are like toddlers and will put anything in their mouths. Marriage is work, and compromise and respect outshines romance almost every day of the week. Saying goodbye is hard, and going through life without someone you love is even harder. No one person is all good or all bad. Taking care of you is important, but be careful that it’s not at the expense of someone else. Taking care of others is also important, but be careful that it’s not at the expense of you.
Balance. Moderation. Others. Hope. Love. Persistence. Grace. With. Joy. All of these words are part of the mantra of my everyday life.
They are what keep me going on the dark days of sadness and the joyful days of sunshine and warm breezes. And that’s what is most important in this life. That I keep going down the path on this journey.
I got folks to love on. Stories to write. Pictures to paint. Books to read. Hugs to give. Hands to hold. Thanks to offer. Hurts to soothe. Joys to share. Wrongs to right. Children to raise. Parents to honor. The future to plant, and the past to grow from.
So yeah, y’all please excuse me.
I have stuff to do.
And maybe, just maybe, it’s in all those little things you and I do in our everyday moments that will make this world will a better place.
We all have stuff to do. And every little bit of it matters.
Love to all.
Tara Joyner Haussler is a Georgia girl, a connoisseur of peaches, and a lover of long naps and hot buttered grits. A graduate of Wesleyan College, she is Mama to the Zoo Crew—one in college and two whom she homeschools and learns from every day. Tara’s best memories are of the places that built her—home, Granny’s farm, and her Great Aunt’s houses. She is a writer who shares the stories of her people—past and present. Her favorite things in life are books, her family, a good cup of coffee, crocheted and knitted blankets she rescues from thrift shops, books, comfy socks, a good pair of blue jeans and boots, listening to folks’ stories—and books. Tara has a special place in her heart for those who have no roof over their heads, foster children aging out of the system, and those who need a safe place to grieve. Her dream is to become a superhero with the superpower to right all of these wrongs. Until then, she continues to share her stories through written and spoken word—in the hopes that we can see how much we have in common, appreciate the beauty in our differences, and just love on each other. In addition to writing, Tara serves as chief cook, bottle washer, teacher, headmaster, artist, laundry folder, and porch sitter. When she grows up, Tara wants to be—well, she’s still working on that. In the meantime, the writing and porch sitting are suiting her just ﬁne.