A special thank you to our daycare

This week was my 5 year old son’s last week at his daycare/preschool. He has been counting down to his next adventure to kindergarten with excitement. Each morning he says,” how many more days, Mom? Sarcastically followed by “are you going to cry on my last day because you are sad I am growing up?” I told him I would not cry even though I knew I probably would (And…I did!). My how time flies. It really is bittersweet. The bitterness of life’s fleeting moments and the sweetness of new experiences for him in “big boy” school.

I remember visiting his daycare while I was pregnant with him. The owner showed me around the entire daycare from the bed baby to the preschool rooms. I have this memory in my mind’s eye of glancing into the preschool room where I saw children playing with friends, back packs hung on the wall, and kidos doing an activity using kid scissors. As I peered into the classroom I remember thinking to myself “wow those kids are so big and that it would be forever before we are in this room.” Forever turned out to be a very very short five years.

My son started attending his daycare at 8 weeks old. I am pretty sure the first day I dropped him off I had a typed listed featuring everything you need to know about my son. I am also sure the teacher thought I was nuts. I remember sitting in the parking lot and shedding a tear the day I dropped him off at daycare for the first time. I cried because it was my first time leaving him. Truth be told, I may have shed a tear or two of relief because it was the first day in 8 weeks he wasn’t screaming at me (see previous post about colic). He didn’t scream at daycare-he waited until I picked him up. True love.

This is a picture of my son on his first day at daycare.

First Day at Daycare September 13, 2010

First Day at Daycare
September 13, 2010

And…here is his picture on the last day of daycare. He looks a little different in this big old chair now.

Last Day at Daycare August 7, 2015

Last Day at Daycare
August 7, 2015

This blog post serves as a special thank you to his teachers and the owner over the last five years. You each hold a special place in this chapter of our lives. This is why you all are so great:

  • You helped teach him some of the most important life lessons-sharing, caring, taking your turn, manners, and the list goes on and on.
  • You always communicated with me about my son’s day with you.
  • You developed, within my son, a love for learning and exploration with classroom visits from community helpers, like policeman and firemen, and daily hands on activities.
  • You make learning your ABCs, 123s, animals, songs, and rhythms so much more fun than I could have ever made it. As a matter of fact I have relearned a few things myself. For example, I can’t get “bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” out of my head this week. Last week it was “boom chicka boom.”
  • You have helped him create arts and crafts that I will always treasure.
  • You provided assurance about the stages in the life of a small child. We survived colic, a year stint of my son biting like a vampire, multiple dislocated elbows (to no fault of the daycare) and potty training together.
  • You have high expectations for my child.
  • You provided encouragement, comfort, love to my child.
  • You helped teach him how to be a good friend, student, and helper.
  • You helped him understand right and wrong and good and bad choices.
  • You were made by a greater power to love and teach children.
  • You are a beautiful example of women lifting up other women.

It takes a village to raise a child and our daycare is a part of my family’s village. As important as this place has been to my child, they have been equally important to me. They have greeted me with a smile and open arms EVERY day. Days when I am on time. Days when I run late. Days when life is perfect. Days when I am tired, don’t feel well, or want to quit. They have provided me the confidence I need each day to know my son is safe, happy, and learning. That confidence allows to go to work and spend my days empowering others in my profession.

This week my son and I were talking about the new building, teachers, and friends that come with kindergarten. During the discussion he said “sometimes when you try something new, it’s scary but you just be brave and it turns out good, right?” Sometimes I think he is wise beyond his years. With a positive attitude like that, I assured him that great things are in store for him. As we transition to the next phase of my son’s educational journey. These years at daycare/preschool will always have a special place in my family’s hearts. For this experience I am grateful.

As we drove out of the daycare parking lot on our last day, I wiped a tear from my eye and then I heard my son say “this air conditoning in the car is making my eyes cry a little (such a tough guy). When do I get to go back and visit?” I knew then he understand the great experience he had there.

Today my spoon is full of many great memories of our special daycare experience and the friends we have made along the way.

Presence: Life’s Present

We have all savored something. Maybe it was the taste of a fine glass of wine, a made from scratch dish from a family recipe, or a scrumptious dessert. In that moment of savoring you think, “mmmm” this is the peak of excellence that you want to remember. There is much to savor about life that is not related to just food. Perhaps it’s a destination checked off the bucket list, the moment you say “I do”, the first time you glance at your newborn child, a graduation, a milestone, the sun setting or rising, or the glow of a summer or winter day. You know one of those moments, even if the world is not perfect-for that moment in time life feels, taste, or seems perfect. I have found that on the best of days, life is perfectly imperfect and that you can savor the perfection in imperfection.

My life always provides bountiful topics to blog about. However, I have not been writing as much as I typically have in the past. Why? Mainly, because I am just savoring. I have reached a stride where I am enjoying motherhood by savoring rather than sharing the moment. I have always loved the job of mom, but I am particularly fond of being a mom to a three-year old. For us, year three (only 2 months left until four years old) has been a good one. The kind of year that makes you wonder when the bottom is going to fall out because the journey has just been so fun. My toddler has had good health, we have gone over a year without a dislocated elbow (I stopped counting at the 7th dislocation), he has soaked up a wealth of information, he only follows me to the bathroom 75% of the time, and he acts more human than animal most days. He likes to remind me constantly that he is “growing up” and is “getting bigger” and that he might even be so big when he is “forty” that he will be a “really, really big giant.” Yes, I like the job of mom to a three year old.

One thing I have tried to become more aware of is of my toddler’s presence. Granted, it is hard to miss this funny, rambunctious kid. However, I am talking about the evidence of his presence that I was probably never meant to find. The presence I could have easily wiped off with some type of cleaner, tossed in a tote of toys, or maybe even never noticed. When I started consciously looking for tokens of his presence, I noticed my toddler leaves a trail of his three-year old self everywhere. I know one day, I will terribly miss these sweet tokens because they will be replaced by smelly socks and gym shorts.

Throughout the year, I have been trying to click mental pictures of life with a three year old that I do not want to forget or even worse…overlook. I want the moments with my three year old seared in my memory. In addition to mental pictures, I have been taking iPhone pics of the funnier moments that remind me of my toddler’s presence. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I have discovering them.

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Take time to notice the presence of others and not just in the physical form. You will be pleasantly surprised by the lessons you might learn, the appreciation you might gain, or the joy you may experience. Sometimes the quiet, unexpected, and the seemingly unnoticeable moments show us the most about people and life-becoming a present to our soul. When you are rushing through life it’s hard to see little things that you take for granted. When we take time, even if it’s only for a minute to notice our surroundings, we can truly appreciate our life and those in it.

Today, my spoon is full of presence of a three year old who steals my heart every day.

Gas Up Your Mini-Vans

Life was easy in a minivan. I don’t drive a minivan nor am I minivan hating on those minivan loving mommas. However, there was a time I drove a minivan-it was my Mom’s. It was a costumed ordered, sleek Mark III Minivan. The hottest minivan on the late 80s or early 90s market, with a pink and grey stripe down the side and lush velvet curtains on the interior windows. Mom, please tell you got a h*ll of a deal on this…looking back it was so ugly. Oh did I forget to mention that it was before I had my driver’s license? I was probably about eleven or twelve when me and a childhood bestie would take my mother’s minivan cruising. We weren’t driving on the road, we were driving on my parents’ property and my uncle’s adjoining property. We had a couple of acres to cruise.

Looking back, I have two thoughts on the minivan adventures. First, why did my mom let me and my friend drive around in her minivan all over her property when we probably hadn’t even hit puberty, let alone have a license to operate a vehicle? I guess she wanted us out of the house. She purchased a lot of fuel to keep us occupied. Second, life was just plain easier in that minivan.

So to take you back to those minivan rides in the late 80s and early 90s…We always wore our seatbelts. There was a safety campaign then to promote wearing seatbelts, so we took that seriously and “buckled up”. Remember the Crash Test Dummies? We probably had lots of hair spray on our tall “mall” bangs and wore neon colored clothing with tight rolled jeans (also sprayed with hairspray to hold the roll). On beautiful days we rolled down the windows. We always listened to our favorite radio station (or cassette tape) which played the latest hits of Madonna, Milli Vanilli, Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, and Janet Jackson. Come to think of it, these artists’ lives were simpler in that minivan, too!

We were living the American dream in that minivan with our “baby” dolls in the back seat. I am pretty sure we didn’t adhere to any car seat laws for our little bundles of plastic. Oops! We had imaginary roads with stop signs, stop lights, etc. We had certain areas that we pretended were drive thru windows for banks, fast food etc. We also pictured ourselves as career women. Our career choices were being teachers and being presidents of a bank that we would own in our spare time.  We both landed in the education profession, but we don’t own any banks. I am not sure why we were intrigued with the banking industry other than we knew there was lots of money in a bank. And, I am sure we thought business suites looked cool and sophisticated. We would drive around for hours (literally) on my parents/uncle’s property. The neighbors and passer byers had to think my mother was losing her mind.  We could go up to 35 mph, without getting yelled at by Mom for driving too fast and then made to return the van to the garage. We really had no plans of where we were going during our drive…just cruising through life. We pretended to drop off the kids at school, cash a check at a bank (this was before ATM cards folks!), and run mom “errands”.  We would pretend our husbands were at work. Thank God we didn’t marry those guys! We giggled and we talked as we lived out our duo fantasy of supposedly working fulltime as a teacher and bank president. Our babies never cried or talked, no cell phones existed, no text, no social media, no blog that needed updating, no GPS, and no bad drivers on the road (just us). Yes, life, love, and parenting sure was easy in that minivan.

This same bestie that I use to cruise with when our feet barely reached the pedals now owns a minivan. She does have some great land for taking a drive, but we haven’t taken her minivan off road…but that might be an idea for escaping reality for a few minutes! If we were to hop in and take a cruise in her minivan, life would look much different than we had anticipated…it actually turned out better than we could have planned. However, I do miss the innocence of the simplicity we expected out of life as moms and as adults. If we were to take her minivan off-roading we would be so excited to have a moment to dedicate to each other to catch up, that we would literally run out of gas before we did conversation topics.

If we were to replay our minvan cruising as adults …here is what it might look like. First, we can now drive on the road legally and go over 35 mph…which is symbolic of life being such a fast pace now and often having more privileges than time. We have many blessings to talk about these days that involve spouses, children, and special interests. However, these days, our kids do cry, get sick, and act less than perfect occasionally (qualities totally inherited from their Dads-just to clarify-that is one dad per family….not of bunch of baby daddies here!). We have days we would generally like to rewind and just do over. We have days we feel like Wonder Women and days we feel like wandering women. My kid is nothing like a plastic baby- he is practically a backseat driver! Imaginary spouses, plastic babies, pretend jobs were much less complicated.  Text and email would be chiming in on our iPhones. We might even take a selfie and update our Facebook status or Instagram. Errands just plain suck as adults and aren’t as fun as we imagined. Hopping in and out of the vehicle a dozen times or going through various drive thru windows just aren’t as glamorous when they hold your day hostage, while you are toting a crying toddler, and using “your” “real” money to pay bills. Gas was cheaper in the 80s, therefore our trip might be shorter this time around. In our childhood minivan, the thought of worry, pain, illness, loss, etc. never crossed our minds. We didn’t understand how to love so much it could hurt at times. We didn’t understand the serious work of raising little people to be positive contributors to the world. We didn’t realize that dates with your sweetheart are few and far between and it’s the little every day moments that mean the most. We didn’t realize there would a national debate on moms who “stay” home and moms who “work” outside of the home (we are all working are butts off!). We didn’t realize the unfortunate cruelty in the world that can unexpectedly blindside you or cause you sleepless nights. Life was simple, easy, good, and fair in that minivan.

Life isn’t as simple, easy, or perhaps as fair as we anticipated…but it sure has been a good ride thus far. I wouldn’t trade all the joys of what this complicated world has bestowed upon us. Let’s gas up your minivan soon, friend. And for those of you who haven’t cruised in a minivan…crank up some 80s music and give it a try with a best friend!

Today my spoon is full of life adventures in a minivan.

Peace, Love & Belly Rubs

Belly RubEvery night when I put my toddler in bed, he says, “rub my belly mommy.” He stretches out on the bed, pulls up his shirt, places his hands behind his head, and sticks his Buda-like belly up in the air and I begin rubbing his belly like he is a puppy dog. One night in the quietness of the belly rubbing, I started thinking about time and my interactions with people. How we have a limited amount of time each day to accomplish or experience what we choose to experience out of life (note: our daily interactions are not totally in our full control because sometime life surprises us with choices good and bad). And, how the people we interact with, by choice or fate, impact our lives and happiness. As a matter of fact we have 1,440 minutes in each day or 10,080 minutes in a week. Now that I am a mom, how I use my minutes is more important than ever because I have a lot to accomplish in a limited window…and I want to savor my spoonful along the way.
One way I have been saving time and energy is through my interactions with people and the time allocated to various folks. Do you know anyone who is a funsucker which is the equivalent to a vampire sucking the fun out of life and people? Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of funsucking vampires in the world that like to sink their pointy little fangs into your life’s minutes. You know who they are…some days you may be one yourself.
Let’s see there are the manipulators, downers, users, chronic complainers, drama addicts, guilt trippers, paranoids, conspirators, naggers, the judgers, the holier than thou, and the worst….are the passive aggressives! There are also the know-it-alls, the close-minded, the I-got-a-better-story to tell than you, the I-am-somebody because I am descendent of somebody that was important 50 years ago, the been there done that type, the I will pretend like I am listening while I wait for a more important person to talk to, and the it will never work naysayers. They come in all different varieties…just waiting to suck the minutes out of your life!
Each moment we have a choice of whom and what we allow into our lives yet most of us do not give it a second thought and continue to drift through life as though we have no choice. We are adults, PEOPLE! Stop being victims of prey for funsuckers! Over the past few years, I have made the choice to limit or greatly lessen my time with funsuckers and cautiously select how I use my time and with whom I share my time. A wise chic shared with me that “those with whom we assemble, we soon resemble” and that statement is so very true!
Have I seen a surplus of time at the end of each day? Absolutely not-life is just busy. However, the good news is I have experienced a surplus of happiness and better utilized my life minutes for myself and for others that I care about.  Call it selfish, you may, but out of the 1,440 minutes in the day-I don’t want to share it with someone or something draining the life out of me. So, I focus on not being a funsucker and I surround myself with folks who like to rub bellies…so to speak.
So is your ying and yang off balance due to funsuckers? If so, reprioritize your minutes. Like vampires, funsuckers run from the light of happiness and will move on to using their vacuum power suck-tion somewhere else. Cloak yourself in the garlic of peace and the light of happiness and the funsucker(s) will move on to their next victim. I promise you won’t miss those nagging little fangs of the funsucking vampires! Rub more bellies-life is too short!
Today my spoon is full of peace, love, and belly rubs.

A perfectly imperfect start to 2013

When I started blogging I did not realize that my blog host provides an annual
report card on Spoonfuloflife’s blog activity. My type A personality LOVES this
feature. I am already dreaming of the possibilities of what the 2013 report
card will yield. So now that the stats are in…well, gosh darn it people like the
posts/site or are really bored and need something to read. None-the-less, March
2012 kicked off the debut post on Spoonfuloflife and the year finished up with
a total of 35 posts; and I was afraid of running out of things to share! Even
more exciting is the fact that Spoonfuloflife has seen over 2,700 viewers
(don’t worry I don’t know who you are!) from 26 countries! Most visitors came
from the United States. Canada and the United Kingdom weren’t far behind the
good ol’ USA. This stat on location at least reassures me that my family members
are not the only folks reading the blog over and over.

So what will 2013 mean? Who knows? Some of the best life has offered has been unplanned. I do not make resolutions. Frankly, I stink at keeping resolutions. Despite previous resolutions…I still need to shed some pounds, will most likely never run a marathon or have abs of steel, and I haven’t made it to Bora Bora (yet). Isn’t life a constant resolution in some way?  Absent of a blogging plan or an official New Year resolution, I promise to continue to learn from my spoonful of life and to authentically share my spoonful with you. I have found through this blog that sharing my imperfections has provided some comic relief for readers, but more importantly has eased the struggle of people I know, as well as, completes strangers who struggle with the same imperfections. Life is tough and it is darn near impossible to be perfect in all of our roles (spouse, parent, friend, professional, community member, etc.) every moment of every day. Acknowledging that your spoonful is not perfect makes one human, approachable, and real! So what if your silver spoon is a little tarnished?

A friend recently shared a post on facebook which hits at the heart of why spoonfuloflife was launched. I traced the post back to the original source which was a blog post entitled The Disease Called “Perfection.” It is especially relevant as you embark on the New Year’s resolutions you have set (or not set). The Disease Called “Perfection” was written by Dan Pearce a few years ago when he was new to the world of blogging. His candid post on perfection went viral and literally spiraled into a popular blog and a book. Now going viral (in a good way of course) would make a cool annual report for my 2013 stats! Check it out here. You won’t be disappointed in this profound, raw look at how being real with the imperfections in our spoonful yields deeper life connections and happiness, as well as, eases the struggles of society.

Today (as well as everyday) my spoon (a little tarnished) is full of imperfections which will continually produce a vast amount of blog material to share in 2013!

I’m On the Naughty List: Elf on a Shelf Failure

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So here it is…I suck at the Elf on the Shelf concept. I am envious of my friends who have the time and creativity to make their elf do cute things like go fishing, shave their face, or make snow angels. I’m not judging-I promise. It’s as if their elf has taken on a mischievous life of their own. I have pinned ideas on my Pinterest Board and Googled ideas, but at the end of the day-I am super proud if I remember to move my elf to a different location in our house than it was the night before-never mind creating a whole scene with the darn thing. Oh, I guess I could pretend our elf is licking crumbs off our dirty dishes in the sink or fallen prey to our laundry hamper-but who has time for that? Every night, I feel that little beady-eyed elf shooting daggers at me as if I am a failure as a mother and that I am robbing my child of joy from a Christmas tradition. What am I doing? An elf dressed in red velvet with a plastic face is making me judge my mothering skills? Enough of this nonsense!

When I discussed my motherly failure with my husband, he looked at me like I was an idiot and said “It’s an Elf, the book is called Elf on a Shelf for a reason.” I have always admired his intelligence. He’s exactly right, It’s not called “Elf on the Shelf Who Makes Messes” or the “Elf who Bakes Cookies” or the “Elf Who Makes a Snow Angel”. It’s on a shelf…for a reason. Parents are tired. We are the magic behind the elf! I don’t need him “sneaking” off to Santa every night so that my kid gets what he wants for Christmas. I’m freaking Santa Claus and I already bought the presents. So my husband and I agreed, the only thing the little SOB, I mean SOS (Son of Santa) needs to do is sit there collecting dust and keep my toddler in line by reporting back to “Santa”. Pleased with our conversation and agreement on parenting elf lessons the conversation went to the Grinch’s dark side with all the REAL “naughty” and “mean” things you “could” make your elf do. We crack ourselves up and it’s too bad we can’t share that discussion or post those pics! You’ll have to wander to the dark side and use your imagination.

Maybe when my toddler is older the elf will create a little more excitement and get my creative juices flowing. Case in point, I tried sitting the elf on my toddler’s potty last week (since we are potty training mode) and making a toilet paper mess. Yes, I spent way too many minutes of my life telling my child not to unroll the toilet paper and yelling at the cat for unrolling the toilet paper-but for the elf, I will break the rule. My child woke up bright and early the next morning, went looking for his elf and found him. Instead of laughing and having a Kodak moment, my son launched the elf across the kitchen and declared “my potty” and started crying. Great way to start off the morning. Thank you “Merle” the Elf for bringing such joy to our house.

So, no more creative attempts this year with the elf. It’s back to rotating shelves and lamp fixtures you go. For all of you creative parents who dazzle your children with elf antics, my hat is off to you! And cheers to the parents who want to strike a match and make an elf smore out of your little elf.

Today my spoon is full of acceptance that I am an Elf on a Shelf failure. On to the next tradition, Christmas carols or decorating cookies, anyone?

Rethinking the Celebration Behind Your Turkey

Thanksgiving has evolved to be a holiday where we celebrate family and blessings. Modern Day Thanksgiving is typically full of parades, processed foods, napping, and football. Personally, our family enjoys the holiday by departing from hectic life and work schedules to enjoy one another’s personality quirks in the name of giving thanks for the many blessings that have come our way throughout the year; serendipitously or through hard work.

As you feast with your family this holiday, consider the following: (1) First, give thanks for ALL your blessings; you know they come in all shaped and sizes.   Better yet, rejoice in the blessings bestowed on others and do not have a jealous heart. (2) Second, acknowledge and give of yourself- your time, talents, resources, and/or money to those who need it. (3) Third, consider looking at life from a different angle. Viewing a forest from a hillside provides a very different understanding than viewing it from the ground amidst the trees. Just when you think you know or understand something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly, unnecessary, or wrong-give it a try. What you uncover might surprise you.

The harvest time that started the tradition of Thanksgiving was a far cry from our modern day Thanksgiving conveniences. I am sure if the pilgrims and Native Americans were zapped into 2012 they could not even fathom a complete Thanksgiving Feast for $49.99 from a local chain restaurant. Likewise, if we transported ourselves back in time to the “first” Thanksgiving, we would probably find a story that played out very differently than what was taught in school. The first feast was probably tense because of the culture differences between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. And was most likely not a feast by today’s American standards, but was rather what the land and “harvest” had produced. There were no hormone injected turkeys, pumpkin pie out of a can, or gel cranberry sauce.  No black Fridays; well, I guess every Friday was black in the sense they did not have electricity. Perhaps, William Loren Katz the author of “Black Indians: a Hidden Heritage” will open your eyes to a different perspective on the Thanksgiving story and will provide you some food for thought as you baste your turkey and peel your sweet potatoes.  His article entitled “Rethinking the Thanksgiving Holiday” written in 2003 is below.

Since 1621 and Governor William Bradford of the Pilgrim colony of Massachusetts, Thanksgiving Day has been a political holiday. Usually wrapped in warm family and patriotic values, our rulers have shaped it to meet their needs. A presidential proclamation announces Thanksgiving each year, and relatives and friends sit down to turkey feeling they are participants in a moment rich in tradition and worthy of celebration.

But is this tradition something to celebrate? In 1620 Pilgrims from England aboard the Mayflower came ashore in Massachusetts. They were able to avoid disaster and starvation when the Wampanoag Nation brought them gifts of food and offered advice on planting, hunting, and fishing. Since half of the world’s crops had been planted by Native Americans and were unknown to Europeans, the Wampanoags brought the Pilgrims something of a miracle.

In 1621 after surviving their first wiffter, Pilgrim Governor William Bradford ordered a celebration. But Pilgrim thanks were not extended to the Wampanoag hosts but to their white God and deep Christian faith. If the Wampanoags were invited by the newcomers, who viewed them as inferiors and servants, it probably was to have them bring the turkey, corn and other delicacies, or serve the food.

If the Pilgrims learned any lessons about interracial cooperation in 1621, they were soon forgotten. In. 1637 Governor Bradford, who saw his colonists locked in mortal combat with dangerous Native Americans, ordered his militia to conduct a night attack on the sleeping men, women and children of a Pequot Indian village. To Bradford, a devout Christian, the massacre was imbued with religious meaning:

“It was a fearful sight to see them frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same and horrible was the stink and stench thereof. But the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice and they [the Massachusetts militiamen] gave praise thereof to God.”

Reverend Increase Mather, Pilgrim spiritual father and still a hero in most U.S. textbooks, asked his congregation to give thanks to God “that on this day we have sent 600 heathen souls to hell.”

Other English colonists had landed in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, and almost immediately had trouble with their Indian neighbors. In 1619 a Dutch ship sold 19 African laborers at Jamestown, and the rulers of Jamestown treated both Africans and Native Americans as untrustworthy inferiors. In 1622, the year after the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, patience ran out for Virginia’s Native Americans. They staged a massive attack on Jamestown that took 350 lives, and reports historian James H. Johnstone, “The Indians murdered every white but saved the Negroes.” Even at this early date two peoples of color showed a willingness to unite.

In 1789 Thanksgiving was revived when George Washington as first president asked the U.S. Congress to make it a national holiday. By using the holiday’s mythology of generosity and cooperation, he sought to unify diverse ethnic and racial groups behind the new political experiment called the United States.

Thanksgiving then was forgotten until the Civil War again sorely tested the nation. President Abraham Lincoln had to deal with many Northern citizens who refused to support the war effort and his new emancipation policy. Pioneer feminist Sarah J. Hale, editor of a famous woman’s magazine, had little trouble convincing the embattled commander-in-chief that a unifying, humanitarian holiday could serve his political goals.

Thanksgiving again disappeared, until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking to unify Americans threatened by a Great Depression at home and fascist aggression abroad, called on the country to honor the holiday. In 1941, the year the U.S. entered World War II, Congress decreed the fourth Thursday in November a Thanksgiving holiday.

Born and reborn as a unifying political symbol, Thanksgiving has glorified the European invaders, and accepted their oppression of people of color. But instead Thanksgiving could honor those Native Americans and African Americans who became our first freedom fighters, and the unity these two peoples often forged during 500 years of resistance. Their rich history of heroism and unity deserves a Thanksgiving holiday.

This story is far from what I was taught in school. It does not reflect cornucopias, plump pilgrim figurines, and colorful Native American figures that decorate our homes. Instead, the tale shows the struggles, biases, and illusions that we too often preserve today. I’m not asking you to throw you turkey out or forgo the holiday; I will be enjoying the day with family and over indulging in yummy food. However, I do ask you to consider and appreciate the fact, that sometimes history and events in our lives may not be what they seems or what we have been told. Thankfully, our country continues to change and become more diverse. I’m thankful for those brave souls that started the sometimes painful experiment of blending cultures and extending a hand of friendship.  Sharing our vulnerabilities, resources, and differences is what makes the world go round and gives us a great reason to celebrate with Tom the Turkey.

Today, my spoon is full of thanks for being blessed beyond measure. And I am humbled by the fact there are two sides (at least) to every story.

To access this document visit  Rethinking the Thanksgiving Holiday

A Letter to Our New Home

Dear New Home:

After dreaming about you for years, we have finally met. As I child I dreamed about what my house would look and be like when I grew up. I was picturing something more like a European Mansion with an exotic view, but that just didn’t work out (or at least not yet). As an adult, I collected magazine pages and pictures of what I wanted you to be. More recently, I moved that addiction to Pinterest (what an awesome website). As newlyweds, we dreamed of plans of what you would and would not be. For example, you would not in any way resemble a fraternity house or hunting lodge. That was probably more of my dream than my husband’s. You would be a great, unpretentious place for friends and family to comfortably gather and celebrate milestones. You would be a colorful reflection of my family. You would be a place that holds our happiest times and shelters us in the unexpected dark times. You would be a place to build memories for indefinite years to come.

We have waited a long time for you to come along. But in particular, the last five months have been the loooooongest. My husband’s civil engineering and project management background has produced a home of near perfection in my eyes. Although, he can point out any place in the house that has a flaw of at least one millimeter in any area. Needless to say, you are the perfect blend of just what we both wanted and dreamed about.

I would like to introduce you to our family. I will pretty much be obsessed with keeping you organized and clean. Any part of your structure that I can produce and slap a label on-I probably will. During holidays, you can expect to be looking great with decorations…no blow up decorations-I promise. You can hopefully, expect the house to be filled with yummy, healthy aromas…some might be carried in from a fine food establishment and some I might whip up myself. You can depend on my husband to fix you just about any time you are broken. He is also looking forward to sharing Notre Dame football games with you. You can count on my toddler breaking things for my husband to fix and you can count on hearing his tiny, yet loud voice and giggles in the rafters. I am sure you will be decorated with his sticky fingerprints and muddy feet. We also have a cat, Miss Kitty, who is nearly 13 years old. She will find one room that she likes and that will probably be about all you see of her. And, you will meet all of our crazy extended family and friends that hold a special place in our heart.

Go ahead and brace yourself, we have some big things ahead that you will have to witness; for instance first on the list is potty training our child. I’m really sorry if you get peed on or worse! There will be many other milestones that you will be such an important part. So here’s to building our relationship, good memories, and turning these nails and wood that make you a house into a home.

Love,

Your Adoring Dwellers

Today my spoon is full of excitement of having a new home.

Lessons from a Salmon

Pike Place Market

In the spirit of writing this post from Seattle, today’s topic (well, really I am writing this at night as I am sleepless in Seattle) is Salmon…living like Salmon as a matter of fact! This may sound fishy, but there are some lessons to be learned from Salmon. Being that chicken, pork, and beef aren’t on my food list of things I like to eat –I eat a lot of seafood; especially salmon. I took a tour of Seattle this past weekend and was fascinated to learn a little more about this pink yumminess that ends up on my plate. I am by no means a “salmon expert” or biological sciences guru, but I will attempt to summarize what I learned about salmon on my tour.

Salmon start out as a little egg that have been deposited and fertilized by mommy and daddy salmon in the gravel/rock of fresh stream water. It takes 1 to 3 months for the eggs to hatch and then they spend up to another five months hanging out around the gravel. They then spend up to a few days or as long as five years living in the fresh water. At the mouth of the streams and river, they school together for a trip out into the ocean. This journey into the salt water can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years.  Once they mature, they head back to their original stream and readapt to fresh water. Their final destination is the original rocks or spawning ground where they were born. There they spawn (breed/lay eggs), bury themselves, and die. Thus, fertilizing and creating a nutrient rich home for the next generation of salmon.

So what can we learn from the salmon?

  1. Remember where you came from and grow from it.
  2. Leave the nest and make your own understanding of this world.
  3. Taste different waters-some might be refreshing, some salty, some murky-but open your mind to new things.
  4. Explore the vast “ocean” before you. Be amazed by its colors and beauty. Do not let the sharks bite you, the fisherman’s nets tangle you up, and other predators steal your joy!
  5. Be flexible and patient. Surely, breathing fresh water one day and salt water the next takes some persistence and flexibility.
  6. Lay your eggs and then die. Okay-not really. Although skipping colic and terrible twos could have some perks. But on a serious note, if you’re a parent-create a new you. This doesn’t mean let your old self “die” necessarily. Take your best characteristics, modifying your worst, and be a good parent. In turn, create a life for your child, do not just recreate your childhood.
  7. Leave something behind to fertilize others…especially your children. Spend your time replenishing others, build their worth, and affirming their value. Be a positive influence and leave the world a better place than you found it.

Today my spoon is full of some of the best salmon I have ever tasted.

Happy New Hallothanksmas Christgivingween Year!

This time of year begins the mad dash of holiday celebrations. From Halloween, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas, and finally we arrive exhausted at the dawn of a new year.  At retail stores we are greeted with an aisle of Halloween goblins and ghosts, then the next aisle is Thanksgiving scarecrows and turkeys, and around the corner are Christmas trees, Santas, and elves. Since we are on the topic of holiday decor- what I hate most are those darn blowup decorations for the yard. I would like to drive by homes and shoot them with a BB Gun one by one. Any ways, back on topic. It’s difficult to enjoy one holiday, without panicking that there is another one creeping right around the corner. Despite the maddening signs that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are near, I always enjoy the holiday season. Each holiday has special memories and traditions that I cherish.  For sentimental reasons and laughs, I will share some of our past and present traditions with you.

I wont’ bore you with 34 years of spooktackular costumes but a few that get honorable mention are Big Bird (Keep PBS!), a Cabbage Patch Kid, a Witch, a flapper, a mermaid (did that twice), a clown, a sock hopper, Chiquita banana, a pirate, a princess, and a cave woman. I am already scheming ways to get my toddler into his costume this year. Since I am a product of the 80s, every Halloween I think about the safety of candy. When I was a child there was a big campaign for trick or treaters to only receive store bought candy-no more homemade goodies. Crazy people started putting needles, razor blades, and drugs in homemade goodies. I guess you can say those kids were tricked and not treated. I remember after hitting up all of the Halloween stops, my brother and I would come home with bags FULL of candy. Then begin my mother and father “inspecting” the wrappers. I’m not sure but looking back, this might have been a ploy for stealing our candy. Luckily, most of our candy passed inspection. One of my favorite treats I received every year was a toothbrush and these red dental dot thingys from a local dentist. You were supposed to chew up the dots after you brushed your teeth to see if you missed any spots. I thought it was much more fun to eat as much candy as possible and then chew the dots to see how dirty my teeth really were.

As a child, our Thanksgiving, perhaps had the strangest tradition—dressing balls. This was a creation of my grandmother. What is a dressing ball you might ask? Well, its dressing that has been mashed into a ball shape and cooked rather than spread out in the pan. You might picture it as a sausage ball on steroids.  I am not sure why she created balls of dressing, but I think they were easy to shove in a grandchild’s hand to make sure we were eating something as we ran around playing. The children loved them, but the adults grew to love and expect them as well. Since her passing, I have been in charge of dressing, so I might bring back the balls for our toddlers to enjoy…and the adults too. They are awesome for leftovers. And lets be real, who can keep a straight face and not laugh when someone says, “pass the balls please.”

One invention that shaped the 80s was the hot glue gun. Really it revolutionized the world. I mean what can you not fix with a hot glue gun? One Christmas season, I remember my grandmother buying a hot glue gun and beginning the endless crafting of Christmas elves. My grandmother and aunt spent endless hours gluing together the elves with plastic faces they had purchased at a local craft store and cutting out and gluing together felt elf outfits-complete with shoes. Ironically, these elves look just like the now famous Elf on the Shelf. I swear someone stole that idea from my family. If we only thought to write a book about those darn elves-we would be millionaires by now and I would be writing this blog from an exotic island somewhere. We started the Elf on the Shelf tradition with our son last year. It seemed fitting to name the elf, Merle, after my grandmother.

One funny memory of Christmas I have is when my dad sent me and my aunt on a mission to buy my mom’s Christmas present. Really, this was an annual mission and we didn’t get a choice to accept or deny the mission. One year, my mother saw a giant, yes giant- a 6 foot, Santa Claus made of dried seaweed/sea grass that she had to have for her house. Seriously, why would anyone want this? This stupid Santa probably weighed 100 pounds. I was about eight years old and my aunt was 18 when my dad sent us to bring this jolly fellow home to my mom for Christmas. Oh, and I failed to mention the store was nearly an hour from our house.  You could imagine what we looked like driving down a major highway in a mini Ford Bronco while Santa’s bottom-half stuck out through the hatch. Every freaking year, my dad and I would hoist Old Seaweed St. Nick up and down from the attic so he could make his grand debut. We hated him and tried some years to break him as we shoved his big rump into the attic-it didn’t work.  I was never so glad to see that guy leave our family when my parent’s had an auction. We could barely give it away. I think it might have brought $5! As a matter of fact, my mom called during the auction and said “who bought Santa”? I have no clue who now has the privilege celebrating Christmas with Mr. Seaweed Santa…but to you I say thank you!

Each year on Christmas Eve, I always enjoy hearing my family whine and complain about a tradition I started a decade ago. Nothing says love like a complaining family. Trust me, they complain about this tradition, but I think they secretly like it. We all have a small notebook with our name on it that is stored in a special Christmas bag all year. Each Christmas Eve when we get together, I drag the bag out and distribute the books. The next 10 to 15 minutes is spent arguing over the “rules” of this tradition. Luckily, one cousin wrote the rules down in her book-so after we get tired of arguing, when all else fails, we decide to read the rules. Next, we write down the events/things we want to remember about the year and then write down what we hope for or are predicting for the next year. Can I just say that me having a baby was mentioned at least every year for the past 10 years! Now that we made that dream come true-they can move on to the next cousin! After everyone jots down their thoughts, we go around one by one sharing the entries from the previous year. You only share what you feel comfortable sharing and try to avoid those TMI (too much information) entries. Some items shared bring a good laugh, some a tear, and others a surprise because you forgot all about them. I am the keeper of the books and honor everyone’s privacy. Seriously, I do not read them. As a matter of fact, our grandmother’s book went to the grave with her.

New Years is spent with some dear friends from our college days. As a matter of fact, since 1999 (and yes we partied like it was 1999 that year), we have celebrated all but two New Year’s together. One year I can’t remember what happened and last year we had a sick kido.  We have celebrated so many together; it is a call of duty to continue the tradition. We have lots of fun stories from ringing in the New Year…honesty, too fun to share. Okay, since kids entered the picture, we usually don’t make it to see the ball drop, but we have a good time none-the-less. We are looking forward to ringing in another year together this year.

As you embark on celebrating the holidays, it might feel like they have all been smashed into one event called New Hallothanksmas Christgivingween Year—but none-the-less, take time to make traditions and enjoy life with the one’s you love…and even the ones you have to love because you’re family.

Today my spoon is full of thoughts of holiday memories and savory dressing balls.

Thoughts as Thick as Peanut Butter

This blog has been brewing in my heart for a while mainly because just like most folks, I do not want to share these thoughts or think about them long enough to formulate an emotion. It’s a sticky topic, like the glob of peanut butter my toddler likes to lick off the spoon right out of the jar. Tasty, yet messy. Deep thoughts…that, well, in this busy life gets crowded out by meetings, laundry, and Power Ranger reenactments. I often wonder if the human flaw and tendency to live superficially is actually a divine design to distract us from the weight of what it would be like if we truly lived. This might seem like a bit of an oxymoron. But by truly living I mean licking every drop off your spoon…kind of like peanut butter. Living by experiencing the pain and hurt, as well as, the joy and blessings, of others who are living around the world, just not those that are nearest to us. Having the energy and gumption to fight for equality for all-all the time. Spending each waking moment making the world a better place than we found it. Embracing the good that each person has to offer. Seems more exhausting than showing up for work and extracurricular activities, right?

I watched a movie, Final Cut, in 2004 (I highly recommend) where Robin Williams played a cutter who splices and dices people’s historical memory after death (as seen through the deceased person’s eyes). He cuts memories up to form a video highlight reel of the person. Kind of like the PowerPoint presentations we now see at funeral homes, weddings, etc. with pictures portraying your life. The plot was thicker than what I am describing, but, I often wonder if someone had the capability after death to “cut” my memories and share them-what would they be? Who have I made an impact on? How did my life look different from my eyes compared to another person’s eyes.

Experience-one size doesn’t fit all. But for me, these are the things that fill my mind in my 30s that fit into my mind differently in previous years of my life. I am not saying that this is a rite a passage for 30s…I am simply saying this is occurring for me in my 30s…who knows if I am a late bloomer or early! Recently, we had some great friends from college visit us for the weekend. Only true friends brave a rental house in the “hood” (I use that word lightly-I know it could be worse) for some quality time together. Being that we both have toddlers we decided to order take out for dinner. It was a debate as to whether the wives or husbands would go get takeout while the others gave the boys their baths…but we ladies grabbed the keys first and off we went for sushi. When we called in the order, the restaurant told us it would take 20-30 minutes and despite the fact that the restaurant is 3 minutes from our driveway…we felt we better head that way and wait…conveniently at the bar. My friend and I have shared a lot of laughs and stories over cocktails… but this one was somehow different. I found us experiencing the same thing, yet describing it in our own words. In a nutshell, we were worried about sucking all of the juice out of the honeysuckle of life. On our brains were not discussions of work commitments, dreams of Pinterest projects, piles of laundry, or exotic travels. It was simply…how do you know you are living every moment to the fullest and how do you not guilt trip yourself when you fall short.

As our discussion developed, it dawned on me that these were ideas that weren’t a part of our discussions in our 20s. For us those years happened to be more sheltered or innocence; maybe even selfish. In our 30s we have seen friends lose their jobs, marriages crumble, parents and grandparents pass away. We understand the gravity of what it means to have a healthy child. And the fear of that blessing turning into hell with one test result. We have seen the effects of evil diseases. We have watched friends mourn the loss of their spouse. We have seen the beauty in a good deck of cards, and the cruelty in a losing hand. People have disappointed us. We have disappointed others. The list goes on and on…but in the midst of all of that…the core remains how do you live each day to the fullest, how do you not fret over the uncontrollable and the unforeseen. How do you be the best spouse, friend, daughter, sister, etc. you can be? How do you create a life for your child so that he or she doesn’t spend the rest of his/her life trying to sort through it? How do you savor all of the “first” and all of the “lasts” your journey has to offer? How do you indeed leave the world a better place than you found it?

The truth is there isn’t an easier answer or even a single answer. The tactic that works one day is derailed by life on another day. Each day you try to be better than the day before. Sometime this evolution is moment by moment. You continuously deprogram yourself from the jargon that this negative word offers. You keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to a cause or need. You say I am sorry. You say I love you. You get happy. You forgive others. You forgive yourself. You spend more time thinking, believing, and doing what your good at doing. You live in the moment, not the past or the future. And, you eat sushi that, well, was ready long before that conversation finished. Peace, love, and happiness folks…keep becoming your best self!

Today my spoon if full of deep thoughts of licking up every bit in my spoon.

My National Holiday-Hubby Returns from Iraq

Today is my personal holiday called the Happiest Day Ever. I initiated this holiday nine years ago when my husband returned home from Iraq on September 17, 2003. Many times throughout these last nine years, I have thought about how special that day was and how lucky I am that I have that day to celebrate.  So…I remember it every year. Many other spouses and parents have days seared in their minds and unfortunately it is a day of mourning. September 17th was as happy as the day was sad when he left for war. A homecoming definitely replaces the void and helplessness you feel when you see the one you love board a bus to catch a plane to a war. Frankly, I didn’t know where in this big world he was for nearly two months…and communication was monthly at best in the beginning.

While in Iraq my husband, Clay, met a BBC reporter, Michael Williams, at a checkpoint. Clay befriended the reporter during their brief encounter and told him a little about himself, how he had just gotten married prior to deployment, and how he hadn’t talked to me since he left (that had been over a month).  The reporter asked if there was anything he could do for Clay and my husband requested that he call me to tell me he had seen him alive and well. I remember my stomaching dropping to the floor when I heard the voice-mail on my answering machine where Mr. Williams was requesting me to return his phone call. I would check my answering machine a 100 times a day before I figured out the beauty of call forwarding. I thought the worst. I rushed home from work to call.  Even though there were literally explosions in the background noise, it was so great to hear that British accent (I love an accent and pretty much everything British) tell me Clay was alive and well. I don’t even know if Mr. Williams remembers this event…but his good deed made a monumental impression on me.

On September 17th all my worries and prayers of nearly nine months were answered.  Will I see him again? Will he return alive? Will he be healthy? Will he be emotionally or physically scarred? Will life resume as normal? Can we pick up where we left off?

As I have shared in an earlier blog post, there are friends we share for seasons. There were a few wives from the unit that I spoke to regularly. We constantly tried to piece together shreds of information to bring us some peace of mind. The day before our Marines were scheduled to arrive we got a hotel room and practically stayed up all night due to the pending excitement of reuniting with our spouses. With our families, we arrived at the reserve center before the sun was up. We waited and waited…and then we saw our soldiers marching up the hill towards us. People were cheering and chanting.

A sigh of relief swept over the entire crowd. As our Marines stopped in formation for their final orders…I could see my husband right in front of me. He was directing his squad. I decided that Uncle Sam had him long enough…so I broke into formation and gave him a big kiss…all the other wives, parents, and kids seemed to follow.

That’s me eating Clay’s face when I jumped in formation.

I know my husband was briefly embarrassed, but he knows me well enough to know I didn’t care!

Homeward Bound

I keep this picture from September 17, 2003 in my office as a reminder to put things in perspective on days when the impossible seems…well, darn near impossible and I feel like my interactions have been with people that have drank too much crazy juice. It’s not that great of a picture of us, our local newspaper actually captured it (thanks for documenting our story), but for me it is a symbol of blessings and thankfulness. So happy Happiest Day Ever to me! And you…celebrate with me! I hope your day is filled with “happy” too! Maybe you should create your own personal holiday to celebrate your spoonful.

Today my spoon is full of happy!

24/7 on the job…Mom

Last week, I had surgery on my knee. The MRI showed a tear in my meniscus.  After 1.5 hours of exploratory surgery-not a single little tear could be found. Arghh!! The good news is I have just been hobbling around like a pirate for a few days instead of being on crutches throughout the upcoming holiday season. The bad news …well, I have a battle wound on my leg (AKA a scar) and we still don’t know what is wrong with my knee. So next steps are physical therapy and taking arthritis medication. Seriously, arthritis?  For those that know me well, know I haven’t worn my bones out from my athletic prowess.  My late grandmother suffered from arthritis.  When the condition would bother her, she used to say her “Arthur” was acting up as if it was her mischievous friend.  I guess, Arthur is now my new “friend.”

My husband has been most helpful and most gracious during my surgery and recovery. And frankly, I am a horrible patient. I am a grumpy beast. I hate depending on others and dislike having to sit and watch life pass me by while my leg is propped up at a certain angle and healing. I am humbled by individuals who have had to be patient while their bodies were healing for a long period of time. Anesthesia and pain killers make me sleep like a bear hibernating for the winter. However, through this experience, I have learned there is one job that you are never off duty for and that is the job of mom. You know you’re a mom when….

  1. In the surgery center recovery area you ask for Goldfish Crackers. And despite the amnesia, you remember being disappointed they were not the extra cheesy blast variety.
  2. Your bummed you got an entire night to yourself in a king size bed (husband, kido, and cat took the couch) and were too drugged to remember it.
  3. Having been sleep deprived for months you first thought after you realized you slept for 16 hours straight is “do I have bed sores?”
  4. While sleeping you remember a pirate with a hammer visiting your beside and you are pretty sure it was your toddler and not a weird dream.
  5. Instead of a bell, your husband leaves you a plastic trumpet on the night stand to blow if you need help. Honestly, my loving husband probably wanted to tell me where to shove that trumpet a few times.
  6. Your family says “It’s been 24 hours…aren’t you back to being superhero mom? “
  7. You have to take sponge baths for a week to avoid infecting your wound, but you forgot to ask the doctor about slobbery toddler kisses on your “boo boo.”
  8. You beg to go to the grocery shopping because it is considered “me time.”
  9. Your first meal post operation you ask for macaroni and cheese.
  10. You still can explain to someone what your toddler is saying even though you are drugged out the wazoo.

Today my spoon is full of thanks for good health! Mom’s don’t have time to be sick!

This “Two” Shall Pass

From birth, heck from pregnancy, most parents are automatically in a competition with each other…especially mothers.  And it is not in our nature to air our dirty laundry.  Doing so is a sign of weakness to the competition. After all, our kid’s perfectness is a direct reflection of our perfection. But for the sake of creating empathy among parents, especially mothers, I am airing my laundry today. Most of us like to think the rest of the world operates in little pockets of utopia where their children are perfect, the parents have the heart of Super Nanny, and life goes as planned. My life has been quite the contrary since the terrible twos became a guest at our house. A dear friend of mine shared the following quote with me which I will PG-13 rate for the sensitive folks.

They are called the “terrible twos” because” f*#&ing awful” doesn’t start with a T.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t have said it better myself. The mother who texted this quote to me is a top-notch mother in my book and I appreciated her rawness! Seriously, what happens at two? And I thought colic was bad!

Borrowing from an 80s movie reference, my cute child goes from Gizmo to Gremlin with something as simple as the wrong Sippy cup filled with apple juice when he wanted orange juice.  For the past few weeks, our days go something like this. At 6:45 he wakes up. Before his eyes are open he says “nack” which means he wants a snack…AKA breakfast. No worries, Prince Cooper, your Gogurt and juice await you. By 6:47 he is telling me “NO TEETH” and “NO SHOES” which means he has no intentions of brushing his teeth or wearing his shoes today. The clock hands seem to be moving at warp speed as I try to finish getting ready while he downs his “nack”. I hear his feet hit the floor the moment he finishes.  He makes his way crying to the bathroom like I have been gone for weeks. He begins climbing my legs. I swear it is like he is trying to crawl back in the womb some mornings. A few minutes later, we have a WWF wrestling match to get his clothes and shoes on. I won’t even go into the details of how the socks have to be “just right” so they don’t hurt his feet and how the tags on his shirt itch his back.

By this point in the morning, the cat is standing at the door meowing because she wants outside. Don’t we all want to escape Miss Kitty? Well, the luxury of a house cat affords you the opportunity of enduring this fine morning with the family. If anyone is going outside to be alone it is me. For goodness sake cat, you have the house to yourself all day! Next, comes the tooth-brushing smack down. And, really, what’s the point….these stupid things are going to fall out in a few years anyways. All of these morning activities, which may I add, are usually done with me wearing dress clothes and heels!

Fast forward to leaving the house, round two continues  as I try to pile drive him into the car seat. His body automatically morphs into a stiff board the minute the car door opens. As soon as I get one arm in the restraint, the other is out.  Off we go to daycare and work…awww…some peace and quiet. Crap!  The sun is in his eyes. Now he is crying again and yelling “NO SUN.” A part of me secretly thanks God that his beautiful beams of sun are causing temporary angst for this holy terror. Maybe some angelic beams will penetrate him.  Out of the car to daycare we go, a little clingy-but he is always happy to see his teachers. Off to work I go, usually sweating like I am having a menopausal moment. Rushing in the door I manage to greet everyone with a smile on my face despite the war zone I just went through.  Who knows if my clothes match? Heck, I may not even have all of my clothes on. I probably have Gogurt in my hair or splattered on my rear. None-the-less, I am here and ready to conquer the day.

Fast forward….the work day is done and let’s face it…some days are filled with adults who appear to have never exited the terrible twos. Long gone are the memories of the morning stress. Off I go to daycare to pick up my pride and joy. I’m ready to see my little munchkin and spend quality time with him. I am greeted with a big smile. A good sign, right? Yes! He has had a good day. Or at least that’s the report. Maybe his teachers lie to me and act pleasant as if he is a good child for them.  Off we head to the car. Noooo! My holy terror is back for a WWF rematch thrashing as he goes in the car seat. I’m really beginning to wonder…does this kid hate me? People in the parking lot probably think I have taken a child that doesn’t belong to me. The little demon from earlier in the day reappears and the remainder of the night is a battle of wills. Whining, crying, more whining….picking our poor 12 year old cat up with grilling tongs, yelling “NO JESUS” and “NO AMEN” when we say our prayers…and on and on and on. Is it bedtime yet?  Close enough…off to bed we go….all four of us snug in the bed (me, my husband, toddler, and cat).  Please Lord, don’t let tomorrow be Groundhog Day.

I know the terrible twos are a phase and this too shall pass. I wonder why the twos are so terrible? Is the Devil a two year old? If so, I never want to meet him. On average, my child has more sweet and funny moments than “terrible two” moments or we would be looking into a refund policy. Luckily, his cute Gizmo moments, outweigh his Gremlin tendencies. But, unfortunately, those angelic moments, right now, often occur when he is with other folks.  As a parent, I guess this is a labor of love step to condition your heart for unconditional love.

As my husband walked out the door wrestling our angel all the way to the car this morning he said, “I wish we could come home and the Super Nanny’s car would be in our driveway”.  To which my child said “NO NANNY”. Sure, we might be a case for the Super Nanny…but with a lot of love, a ton of patience, and a few ounces of wine…the terrible twos will be distance memories and replaced by the ““what’s that threes”, the obnoxious puberty years, the brainless teenage years, the experimental college years, etc. I air my laundry because life isn’t perfect and mine isn’t either. So if you are a mother of a two year old (or a mother of any age child), take a deep breath and realize that more of us have been to this place than we will ever admit. Keeping moving forward. The goal is to survive the terrible twos and not create an adult who has a persistence case of the terrible twos. The world has enough of those already!

Today my spoon is full of terrible twos. Hmmm…I wonder what my WWF Mommy Stage name could be?

Eat Some Carpe Diem

Quite a few folks have asked me “where is your blog this week” and to you I say thank you for missing me. I have missed blogging. It’s a creative outlet I have come to love. I promised to be authentic on this blog-so to answer your question “where have I been? “ Well…drowning in work and life. Mucho deadlines at work, building a house, a traveling hubbie, and a bummed knee have caught up with me this week. So this blog is short and sweet!

If you’re having one of “those” weeks, in the midst of the busy chaos stop and have a real big spoonful of life. For peace of mind go ahead and resign as general manager of the universe and do something for yourself and those you love. Enjoy the beautiful weather, get your hair or toes did, have a massage, catch up with a friend, go on an adventure with the kiddos, commit a random act of kindness, have a date night with your love, etc. Whatever, just stop and enjoy it.  Tonight, Coop and I are going on an outdoor picnic adventure.

Meanwhile, enjoy your spoonful and see you next week! There is so much to blog about…Honey Boo Boo drama, Todd Akin speaking on behalf of all uteruses, the idiot I met who said kids in daycare go to kiddy kennels (that one sent me over the edge), my 23 days of coke sobriety (let me clarify that-Coca Cola)….got a lot of material stuck in my head! Looking forward to jumping back on the blog wagon next week.

Today my spoon is full “carpe diem” for the things that matter most.

Hello… a Call from Communication Memory Lane

Communication makes the world go round. From smoke signals to pigeons to Morse Code, we as humans have always found a way to communicate. Perhaps the most famous (although a little thing called Apple has given him a run for his money) invention for communication was in 1876 by a fellow name Bell who created the telephone. His innovation created the platform that has undergone a radical transformation in the last 136 years.

Each phase of my life coincides with stories about telephones. Since I was a small child, I have always loved human interest news shows like 20/20. For most of my childhood, I envisioned myself being the next Barbara Walters (hmmm…maybe I can be Barbara Walters of the blog world). I recall one episode about technology and how one day we would be able to see the people we talk to while on the phone. I imagined a giant TV screen that had a numerical key pad and a giant phone connected by a cord. I remember thinking what happens if people call and you aren’t dressed or your hair isn’t fixed…. I guess I never thought you could just ignore the call (now there is a button to do just that). Being able to actually hear someone’s voice and see them on the phone simultaneously seemed space aged to a girl who just started dialing the numerical prefix to phone numbers when the last  four digits would no longer suffice.

My next memory of phone technology occurs in my preteen years. I recall getting the “answering machine” at our house. I remember jumping out of the car and running in the house from the garage to see who had left a “detailed message” after the beep. Although I was embarrassed at the time, I can now chuckle about a group of boys that use to leave long, ridiculous messages on the machine (gosh, wish I would have kept those). I also remember my grandmother would leave a message and at the end of her message she would say “maw” as if she was signing her name to a letter or we didn’t know who she was.

During my teenage years, I experienced what I thought were communication luxuries like calling waiting and caller ID. In hindsight, these were really just efforts for my parents to spy on me and have a fighting chance of having a few minutes on the phone. While I was in high school, my parents purchased their first cell phone. It was in a black bag and came with a detachable antenna you put on the roof of your car. It was for emergencies only. Minutes were pricey and precious. Occasionally, I would get to carry the “bag” phone in my car. Even if I didn’t make a call, it felt so cool to carry that bag out of the house and stick that antenna on my Ford Probe. There is a reason, you no longer see bag phones or Ford Probes and for that I am thankful.

In college, personal cell phones still weren’t popular. I know it is hard for current college students to believe, but I managed to make it to class on time and have an active social life without a cell phone to call or text my friends. Toward the end of college, car phones were becoming increasingly popular. And finally the true mobile phone started hitting the scene. My last year of college, I bought a cell phone plan because it was cheaper than paying for a landline. Heck half the time I didn’t even take it out of my house.

During my early professional years, I found myself a newlywed with a husband in Iraq. I was able to forward our home phone to my cell phone so I could reduce the possibility of missing his phone call. He was among some of the first men and women to be deployed, so calls home were rare because communication systems weren’t established (luckily, this got better further into the war). Since I was carrying my cell phone with me, I noticed I had stopped wearing a watch. After all, I didn’t’ need it because my cell phone always told me the time. I also starting texting during this time period. I will be honest, at first my text included words like “yes” “no” and “k”. After my department started making fun of me for my short messages and got me a texting for dummies book for my Boss’s Day, I stepped up my game.  Now, I have an unlimited texting plan and I can text all sorts of abbreviations, videos, pictures, and sometimes even short dissertations.

In my thirties, I find that “telephone” communication is more important than ever. Somewhere between carrying that bag phone and present time- a revolution occurred in my life. My phone is practically a family member. When my toddler discovers it in the house, he automatically brings it to me as if I should be missing it. My phone tells me where to be, it reminds me of tasks and appointments, informs me of what’s around me, keeps me up-to-date on the weather, notifies me about how much money is in my bank account, shows me how to get places, plays my favorite tunes, keeps track of my exercise, takes pictures and videos of precious moments, serves as a calculator, houses my addresses book, provides games to my child, and serves as an alarm clock. I am actually typing my blog from my cell phone as I wait on a meeting to start. And…as that 20/20 show shared back in the late 80s/early 90s, my phone now allows me to see the person I am talking to. I never imagined 20 something years ago, when watching that show, that I could be anywhere in the world and would be able to read a story with my toddler, sing songs, and say our prayers together. My son, will never know a world where he can’t see the person on the other end of the phone.

I wonder one day what my phone will look like? Will my iPhone seem like the size of a shoe box compared to the phone I carry when I am 100 years old? What will my phone do for me then? Check my blood pressure? Cook for me? The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to see and embrace what communication technology the future holds.

Today my spoon is full of cool communication memories.

Dear Secret Lover…

Dear Secret Lover,

Breaking up is hard to do. And it’s not me…it’s actually all YOU. I know we have been together for a LONG time now. We practically met when I had a baby bottle in hand. Our love for each other can be described as Jekyll and Hyde.  You ignite me and motivate me, yet hours later you leave me feeling lethargic and empty. Just thinking of you brings a bubbling sensation to my body. I have tried replacing you, but no one quenches my thirst like you do and I always run straight back to you craving the taste of you on my lips. When I see you, my body aches to touch your shapely silhouette. Even though my husband has seen us together, he doesn’t know the extent of my love for you. He’s out of town all next month which gives me the opportunity to spend even more time with you. I need you. I want you. But this has to stop. This is actually the worst month I could break up with you…I have a huge stack of projects to complete in the upcoming month and a toddler in my life that has more energy bottled in him than a Red Bull.  As fate would have it, I spent the last night with you in the museum having you 60 different ways (ladies….be jealous). As the saying goes…I went out with a bang (and fizzle and pop)! You have such a way of invigorating my very soul. Living without you is not going to be easy but the fact is- your just no good for me. Maybe one day we can have an occasional rendezvous without me falling for you all over again. Until then, I will be keeping a safe distance from you.Good bye…Coca Cola our relationship is over.

Addicted to your love,

Me

I LOVE Coke! I know in the South we call every soda product a “coke” but I mean I really love the real thing! No substitutes. No knockoffs or other brands. No diets. No zeroed out versions-the real deal. I realized I was addicted to the love of Coke when my toddler started calling it “momma juice”. What my toddler doesn’t know is the real mommy juice is brought out when I have a quiet moment while he is in bed.

The Vault

As I have been contemplating breaking up with Coke and blogging about it, fate landed me in an Atlanta hotel close to the Coca Cola Museum. I decided to take a pilgrimage to the museum to say my final goodbyes. I learned about the taste of happiness, watched how the product was bottled, sold, and marketed. I walked by the vault that holds the secret formula that only two people in the world know.God, if I am ever stranded on an island with one other person, please let one of the people that knows this secret formula be stranded with me…and make that person a hot, smart guy!

 

At the museum, I spent most of my time in the tasting room sampling the 60 different Coca Cola products from across the globe. I must say, nothing quenched my thirst like the American Coca Cola. I left with museum with a sovenier glass bottle of Coca Cola that was bottled that day…maybe I will pop the cap on that bottle in July 2013 for a celebration of my one-year breakup with my love.

Since stopping for a Skinny Caramel Macchiato doesn’t fit in this momma’s schedule most mornings…there is nothing that gets my blood going and my brain working like a cold, refreshing Coke. It’s liquid ambition in a glass, plastic, can, or Styrofoam container.  The fact is the product is empty calories and filled with things my body doesn’t need. It’s a waste of my time to avoid certain unhealthy foods, run, and exercise while continuing to drink empty calories. In the name of health, I am breaking up with the love of my life. For now, it’s all or nothing…so I am selecting “nothing.” Maybe one day I can have a sip and not go back to “all.” As the saying going, misery loves company…who is with me?

Today my spoon is full of the last drop of “mommy juice”.

My Boo!

Last week I celebrated a two-year old’s birthday, this week I celebrate the birthday of an 18-year-old. My littlest cousin who we call Boo Boo (Thanks to my son) is turning the BIG 1-8! With this rite of passage, the 18th birthday brings many “rights”… most of which aren’t that great for your mind or body. For example, you can drink in some countries (not the USA), buy tobacco products, purchase a firearm, get tattoos, pierce various parts of your body, and consent to what you want to “consent” to.  You can join the military, get married, buy a house, play the lottery, sign contracts, get a full-time job, and be tried in a court of law as an adult. Unfortunately, some may chose to do all of this simultaneously. Probably the most meaningful “right” you earn as an 18-year-old is your right to vote. Taking a short commercial break for a feminist rant….ALWAYS vote! Boo Boo…many women marched and fought hard for this right. Some women around the world dream of the day their voice is heard and recognized. Not all are on an equal playing field yet…but your voice helps move progress forward.  So always, always rock the vote!

Now back to being 18. I don’t recall much about turning 18. I didn’t get a tattoo, smoke a pack of cigarettes, buy a lottery ticket, etc. The best I remember, it was a pretty uneventful birthday. For some, the ripe age of 18 is a milestone or represents a time in their teenage life that makes them want to stay forever young. I never thought at the time that 18 would be my prime age, but some do. And for those…of course there is a song. Bryan Adams has a song “18 til I Die.” Goes something like this

Can’t live forever that’s wishful thinkin’
Who ever said that must of bin’ drinkin’
Don’t wanna grow up I don’t see why
I couldn’t care less if time flies by

18 til I die – gonna be 18 til I die
it sure feels good to be alive
someday I’ll be 18 goin’ on 55! – 18 til I die

I really can’t imagine being 18 until I die. I would love to have my 18-year-old body…until I die, but I hated the teenage years. The knowledge gained as an adult…with an 18-year-old body is indeed a deadly combination. So for everything there is a season. Even though you gained some extra “rights” by turning 18, it is still lumped in with “teenager” years. However, looking back it was more of a monumental year than I realized. It was the year I shifted from being a “high schooler” to a “college student.” It didn’t’ seem that big of a deal at the time…but hindsight is 20/20 and that year some of the decisions I made set the course for my life (which has been a fabulous voyage thus far).

Our Boo Boo is starting 18 off right; she has earned the recognition of a Governor’s Scholar and is receiving top honors at a one the finest State Universities (Go TOPS!). Boo Boo as you set off on this journey of turning 18, you are stepping into the world of college…the place where you carve out who you are, as well as, how and what you contribute to this world. Yes, there will be days you will miss your mommy…but you will live and come to adore the bond you share as adults. You will miss your family…but there will come a time when you will be glad to get away from them after you spend a weekend at home visiting with them. Heck, some days I would like to pack up and live in a dorm! Watch out…I might visit!

Speaking of home…”home” will never be home again. You will share a tiny dorm space, but it will be “home.” You are now charged with making yourself a home in this world as you chart your course. You will have roommates you hate, roommates you love, and roommates you don’t even recall that much about. You will meet new people and they will influence your life in many ways. Some will detract from your life and bring you more trouble than they are worth. You will say goodbye to old friends, hello to new friends, and eventually hello again to some of your old friends. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own life and who you let in it…or keep in it. You will have the opportunity to travel abroad and see this big world and experience it for yourself. You’ll experience love and heartache. You will be humbled and disappointed by adults. You will meet mentors who ignite your passion for a cause. You will learn how to push yourself. You will learn the value of a dollar and the joys and pain of balancing life and work. You will try crazy things. You will succeed. You will fail. You will grow. And ultimately, you too will be glad you aren’t 18 til you die.

As you turn 18, enjoy what this chapter in life has to offer, but do not let it comprise the opportunities and dreams the next chapters have to offer…for they get sweeter with time. Don’t miss the current chapter or the next chapter, by living in past chapters. And above all, enjoy being 18 while it last.  Happy birthday, my love…Boo Boo.

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Today my spoon is full of birthday wishes for one special gal!

A wise old man…who is two!

Since my son turned two last week, I have been reflecting on his past two years. I recently heard my mom say “days are long and years are short.” I don’t know if she made that up, she is usually pretty clever with words, or if she “borrowed” it from someone. The quote is a good description of parenting and especially the last two years of my life. And though we have had some long days, two years have been short as a parent to my Coop! There has been days that if a phone number existed to the Stork that dropped off my bundle of joy…I would call for a refund or an exchange. Luckily, these days are few and far between and when the fun and pretty merge with the bad and ugly you are left with predominately found memories in short segments.

One thing great about Cooper turning two is that we now can count his age in years. I was so excited when I could quit counting his age in weeks. It’s a lot for a new parent to keep up with weeks, especially on top of feeding schedules, sleep schedules, diaper changes.  Geez the list goes on and on! Then we moved from counting in weeks to counting in months-which is a little easier. Now we get to move from months to years! Maybe I will throw in a 2 ½ just to be cuh-razy!  But none-the-less, I don’t have to count days, weeks, or months in my head any longer. Just years and I am afraid those years will be too short.

There is very good reason for not counting in years. For example, doesn’t it sound better to say I am 34 years old rather than 415 months!  I won’t even calculate the weeks… that would be too depressing!  In honor of not having to count in months any longer, I will amuse you with 24 things I have learned in the past 24 months from my toddler. I mean come on, if I listed just two for his two years of life that would be a boring post. And if I listed 104 in honor of a 104 weeks of life, that would be too long. So here they are (in no particular order)… 24 things I have learned as mommy to Cooper and in return want to remind him about when he is an adult.

  1. Work and play should be one in the same. Whether you are picking up toys before bed time, helping me with laundry, or orchestrating an intense fight between your dinosaurs you are having fun. Your innocence allows you to turn work into play. I hope you always continue to cease the moment and play your way through life. Now, this isn’t to be confused with being a “player” to the ladies.
  2. Learn how to say no.  You do this a little too well sometimes. As an adult, I hope you know when to say no and not be scared to take a chance and say yes. Never allow saying “yes” to interfere with your well being and the ones whose relationships you value the most.   I have found once you say “no” …it is easier and easier to say it again to preserve your inner peace.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed…try, try, try again. From learning to setup, to walk, to putting things in your pocket, to riding your tractor…you kept trying to you figured it out. You don’t let restrictions slow you down or influence your capability. Now, to conquer the potty!
  4. Learn by watching and listening. I am amazed on how much you soak in by being a quiet (or sometimes a loud) observer. Always keep an open mind, eyes, ears, and heart.
  5. Looks don’t matter. Whether you interacting with a child your size, a plump old lady, or Elmo, you look at each of them as humans and wonder what fun and excitement awaits for you by your paths crossing.  Plus, you love me at my prettiest and my ugliest.  Always look for the value in each person you meet and don’t allow their looks to camouflage what you see.
  6. Know when to ask for help. Sometimes in life you need help from others…and that’s okay. Asking for mommy’s “help” or daddy to “fix it” is music to our ears. Throughout life there are people waiting in the wings ready to help if you ask.  Don’t ignore their offers and don’t take advantage of the offers.
  7. Enjoy life at the pace you have defined for yourself. Boy, you have one speed and that is whatever you want it to be. There is no rushing you and no slowing you down. As an adult make your pace match your priorities in life.
  8. Love people for who they are not what you want them to be.  When you see your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, friends you see them for just who (“what” might be debatable at times) they are and love them any way. You have no preconceived notions of what they should be. If you continue to have this outlook you will face less disappointment.
  9. Notice the small things in life. Whether it’s a bird, an airplane, a flower, a rock, a piece of lint…you notice it. Don’t get so busy that you don’t appreciate what is around you and miss the obvious.
  10. If you don’t like someone or something ignore them/it. When you think something is a bad idea, doesn’t sound like fun, is a mean person-you just ignore them and don’t incorporate it into your moment (okay-sometimes you bite, then ignore). I hope you continue to block out things that don’t matter and not spend your time incorporating and fretting over people and things you don’t like. Instead, put your energy into things and people that bring you joy. And…although it could bring great satisfaction you can’t bite people that you don’t like as an adult. Although, occasionally you can whisper to yourself “bite me” which takes biting to another level.
  11. Don’t hold a grudge. Even though you have a memory like an elephant, you rarely hold a grudge. If someone makes you mad you yell, bite, or cry and then you move on. I hope you always have that ability to get over it and move on.
  12. Express yourself. Whether it is singing a song, yelling to hear your voice echo in a public bathroom, sitting down on the floor and protesting…I can always count on you to let me know what you are thinking. Don’t bottle up your emotions and continue to express yourself.
  13. You can’t always get what you want. But as the Rolling Stones say “but if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.” Although you prefer to gorge on fruit snacks, macaroni, and juice… you will find that life is best lived in moderation. However, your mother will always agree that Mac and Cheese and pizza should have been their own section in the food pyramid.
  14. Every day is a new day. Each day you wake up with new energy, a new perspective and the past is irrelevant. That past is just that-over. So learn from it and leave it there.
  15. Go with your gut. Whether it is jumping off the bed, ripping your clothes off and running around the house naked, or snuggling under the covers on the couch (occasionally, you have a sweet moment)…you go with whatever strikes you. Never lose your boldness and your freedom to not care. Although, I must warn you…running around naked as an adult might have its consequences.
  16. Be a minimalist. You live off fruit and macaroni and cheese. Your favorite toys are items I once considered trash. You don’t have to have extravagance to find happiness and fulfillment.  I hope you experience the finer things in life, but always enjoy the simplest of pleasures.
  17. Sometime a timeout changes your perspective. As much as you hate them, an occasional time out is needed for your safety (and my sanity). Know when to give yourself a timeout to have some quite time to think and gain a fresh perspective. Hopefully, as an adult this won’t include tears and kicking your feet.
  18. Know your boundaries. You and the family cat, Miss Kitty, have a constant struggle with boundaries. One of my favorite books, Wuthering Heights, discusses the thin line between love and hate.  This is a perfect illustration of you. When you pet her, I can see it in your eyes the fine line between loving her and pulling out all of her fur. You and Miss Kitty are both protective of one another and curious of each other.  If I am at home and your not…she walks around meowing and looking for you. When you get home, she is the first thing you look for and greet. When you are together it usually goes something like this…you lure her with a snack, pull her tail, she bites you, you cry, and then you chase her around the house scolding here with “no, no Kitty” (that really sounds like “titty”). Remember that thin line between love and hate and how one action can ignite either emotion. And…remember some boundaries are made to be crossed and some are made to be observed.
  19. Let music fill your soul. You came about it naturally; you inherited my love for music. Whether it is beating your drum, strumming your plastic guitar, or singing a song…you find comfort and joy in music. I spent countless hours (and Mimzi did too), singing to you while you had colic. We sang so much we ran out of songs and even made up our own at times. Continue to let the beat carry you through the hard times and celebrate the good times.
  20. Figure out how things work. Like your dad, you are mechanically inclined to make things work and figure out problems. Continue to be inquisitive, think outside the box, and believe you can conquer any problem.
  21. Always say your prayers. This is actually a favorite reminder of your great grandmother and now of your great grandfather. You are so natural at saying a prayer and listing off everyone and everything you love one by one and closing with “maymen” (aka amen). As you grow up I pray your faith in something bigger grows stronger and I hope when this world is ugly your faith brings your strength.
  22. Always check in. Although I don’t let you out of my sight for long (way too risky and you can accomplish so much so quickly) the times when you are playing and I sneak away for a moment…you always holler “momma” just to make sure I am there. You especially do this if dad gets out of your sight. Before we leave for school and work you always make sure that Brown Bear is in his place on the bed (I’m sorry you inherited my OCD tendencies). I hope you always check in on those you love and keep in touch with friends that you make throughout your lifetime.
  23. Laugh at yourself. For some reason you think saying the word “orange” is so funny. When you say that word you have the funniest look on your face and you giggle. It makes me chuckle every time. I hope you can always laugh at yourself in the best and worst of each situation.
  24. Always share. Every now and then you turn into a mine-osaurus, but for the most part you share well with others, even when it hurts to watch your cousin chew on your favorite toy. At your recent birthday party, you would open up birthday cards that contained money and freely give your money to folks at the party. I hope you always have a giving spirit and not expect things in return.

Each short year, I will continue to prepare you to live in the world in which you will live and not the world in which I grew up. Be the days long or short, I will be there to learn with you and from you and to support your dreams, not mine dreams for you…but those you define for yourself. As I encourage you to not lose your innocence, to not let others make you feel jaded, and not let this world make you judgmental, I work to undo that which the world does to each adult. Little man, you have taught me a lot in two short years, I can’t wait to see what the next years bring.

Mr. Two Year Old

Today my spoon is full of a lot of wisdom from a two year old.

Savor Every Spoonful…Life is Precious

If you are a regular follower of spoonful of life…you know most of the posts, as a reflection of my life, are sprinkled with humor. This week is dramatically more serious than most…but for everything there is a season. For me, this past week hasn’t been a season of humor. Being humorous in today’s post would be disrespectful to the heaviness of my heart and isn’t authentic (and remember, I promised authenticity for better or worse). Rather than provide you a chuckle, I hope this post encourages a pause of reflection, re-evaluation of your priorities, or creates a moment for you to stop and count the blessings in your spoonful of life. It’s a week like this that causes me to do the same.

On my running to do list (I keep a book, okay-I have three degrees in organizational communication/leadership…cut me some slack) is the task to write my obituary. Many of you might find that morbid. However, I have this on the list because…well, I like to write and I figure this journey is my story to tell. What is at the very heart of this task is….this “to do” item is continuously knocked down to the bottom of the list because I live as if I have unlimited time and complete control of the future. Just to give you some perspective, this has been on my list for over 2.5 years now. So, something that I know is unavoidable is replaced with a mountain of chores that are meaningless and will be replaced with more chores. Why do I wait? I don’t know-avoiding the unavoidable, I guess.

As I write, my heart is heavy for several reasons…all surrounding death. Death-it’s the one guarantee that we all have in this life as we know it. It’s the knock on a door that, if we are honest with ourselves, most do not want to answer. Some individuals have a peephole on their door and get a glimpse that the end is near due to poor health, for others it’s an unexpected visitor.

Over  the last week, I have watched a family member deal with the sudden death of a sibling; closely followed a blog of a retired co-worker who is fighting his last days with cancer, when he should be basking in the glow of retirement; experienced the shock and heartache due to the death of a friend who was unexpectedly ripped away from his fun-loving wife, precious babies, and kind family due to a horrific accident, and watched my family struggle with the death of their dear 15-year old cat, Minnie Mouse (not to compare humans and animals-but Minnie was family!).

If you truly allow yourself to experience and taste life which means feeling the hurt of others-its moments like these that stop you in your tracks and cause you to ask, what is in my spoonful and what am I doing with it? I wish I had some words of wisdom to inspire you to be your best self every day, soak up every breath of life, and savor every tasty spoonful of life… but, I don’t have any words other than DO IT! And do it NOW!! I know, with time, the heaviness lifts and we inevitably are back to being consumed by things that frankly, just don’t matter. It is my goal, to keep savoring each spoonful I have and to continue to minimize putting things in my spoon that doesn’t matter. I am focusing on filling my spoon full of rich, wholesome love and laughter that feed the soul. And…work to avoid filling it with the empty calories of things that are not tasty. Speak your heart, show your love, and spend your time perfecting the taste of your spoonful, friends.

Let’s Get Physical!

When I think of exercise my mind reverts back to an 80s video of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” You know the one I am talking about—if not Google it (or click on the hyperlink)!  I have never been an athlete. I tried tee-ball and decided at the ripe age of five that the helmet messed up my braids. I tried cheerleading in middle school and some days pep just got on my nerves.  I tried softball and it was just boring. I tried the dance team and it was just a bad version of MTV videos in the 90s.  I really think my disgust for physical fitness started at a young age-probably during P.E. (a.k.a. Gym).  The teachers were nice enough-but I didn’t care anything about being bonked in the head by a dodge ball from a puberty stricken athlete, doing squat thrusts, or physical fitness tests like I was trying out for the military. Really, what does doing chin-ups on the monkey bars really tell anyone in 5th grade? I remember during middle school we use to have to run around the school parking lot in what was equivalent to a mile.  I was more of a walker. I was always envious of the kids that flew by in running strides. And I always felt sorry for the kids on the chubby side that were struggling to make each lap. I found myself somewhere in the middle walking a fast pace. Again, why would I want to break too much of a sweat early in the school day when I had used cans of hairspray before school to get my “mall” bangs the right height.

As an adult, I have had some better “athletic” experiences.  In college, a friend and I took Kung Fu class. This wasn’t an aerobics class to the latest R&B…this was the real deal. Our instructor was Master Purdue who resembled Mr. Miyagi. We had martial arts shoes (they were called the Tiger Claws…roar) and boxing gloves and we could really get moving to some Offspring music. Then we moved to different cities and I really did nothing for quite a few years. Luckily, my metabolism was my friend back then-now we are sworn enemies.

During my adult years, I have found a trainer at a local fitness facility. My mom and I been training with him usually two or so days a week for about three years. During my teen years, I wouldn’t have imagined that I would have worked out with my mother. Actually, I would have loved to have bopped her on the head with a dumbbell.  Honestly, the feeling was probably mutual. Neither of us will be competing in Ms. Fitness America or a mother-daughter contest anytime soon, but the training is paying off and we enjoy it. Our trainer is a fire fighter saving the city most days, and saving our butts from cellulite on the off days. Sometimes he makes us run stairs like we are firefighters! My mother is convinced that he makes her work harder and lift more than me. Never mind, she is taller and stronger than I am! However, I will admit, I always try to keep a good conversation going so I forget what rep I am on (and maybe so does our trainer…wink wink).

I learned about a month ago that I have somehow torn my meniscus and need surgery. Sometime this fall, I will be on crutches for six weeks (can’t imagine what blog material will come out of that!). However, the day before I learned of this injury, ironically, I started the Couch to 5K (C25K). I have always despised running (since circling that dang school parking lot for a mile). I thought running was boring. I thought I didn’t have enough endurance. And, once again, I am eating my words. I really don’t know why I started the Couch to 5K program. I suppose we are always running from something-avoiding bad health, those extra pounds, etc. For me, I was running toward the opportunity of some time with myself (toddler + husband works out of town=no me time). So I started running and I kind of like it. I don’t’ love it, yet-but it is growing on me. I like the challenge of seeing if I can go further each time. I like the clarity it brings to my mind. Please note I am not looking for a running partner. I like to listen to Pandora and just think about nothing while pushing my thirty pound toddler who happily eats Nutter Butters and chugs almond milk during our journey. I prefer the peacefulness that comes with running at night- my child usually falls asleep, the stars and moon are calming, most people are winding down for the night, and there is something mystical about the glow of lights in the midst of darkness (insert the tune to “I wear my sunglasses at night”).

Now, I don’t know that I will ever be in a marathon…we will just see where this takes me. Maybe I will even run in a 5K and wear a pink tutu like all of the other runners who have been RockinPink for Ali. But for right now it will be one nighttime stroll at a time. What I do know is you don’t let your elementary, middle, and high school days define you as a non-athlete. Get off the couch, and give something a try…you just might like it. Let’s get physical…

Today, my spoon is full of Icy Hot for my knee.

Going to the Chapel

My husband and I went through a few years where our summers were filled with weddings. As newlyweds ourselves, they seemed like such hopeful and romantic events. Then we transitioned to attending baby showers…and this summer we are back to weddings. Not necessarily individuals that didn’t work out a few summers back. We’ve attended a charming small wedding, sent gifts to a wedding we couldn’t make, and attended a Vietnamese wedding which I couldn’t understand much (mostly spoken in Vietnamese)-but it was a pretty darn cool ceremony. Being nearly a 10-year seasoned veteran of marital bliss (okay most days), my perception of this summer of weddings is a little different than those I attended a few years back as a newlywed.

Some of my ramblings on marriage are based on personal experience and others on observations.  It appears when we attend a wedding we are more concerned about the gift, the wedding colors/deco/gown, what we are wearing, what is the food, is there an open bar…or for me…what flavor is the cake? I LOVE wedding cake-white cake with white icing. ”Nom nom” (yum yum) as my toddler says. However, in the midst of the entire wedding extravaganza I think as guests (and sometime as the new couple) we often miserably fail on two levels. Unknowingly, most of us fail to #1 Appreciate and support the individual (spouse) on this journey called life and marriage and #2 Support the union.  Often time an individual gets lost in the union, and the union gets lost in the individual.  It’s a delicate balance one must strike as a spouse and as a friend or family member supporting a couple.

It seems that the support needed for a successful marriage is lost with most traditional wedding ceremonies. This was more evident to me as I attended the Vietnamese ceremony recently. In this particular ceremony there was a strong sense of respect for each other; togetherness, yet individuality; and a very strong commitment to the joining of the two families (rather than just the two individuals trying to blend two families). In a traditional wedding-it often appears that rituals pretty much stack the deck for failure against the couples from the moment the wedding is being planned.

Cool pic borrowed from Pinterest.

It starts with whose family is paying for what. Then, it moves to the actual wedding where the groom’s family sits on one side and the bride’s family sits on the other side of the isle (what would it hurt to sit together?). These two lives may join as “one” but darn it-we will live out the Hatfield and McCoy mentality and remain separate as a family for the rest of your marriage.  Then you publicly vow to become one-which really is a lie. You have to be two and learn to work as one. Next is the honeymoon where you can ignore family, work, real life stuff which is not reality. Then after the honeymoon the conversations moves into who gets what holiday, etc. Where does the madness stop?

Now, I may be a bit of a bitter bride. Six months to the date of my wedding (already mostly planned and purchased)…a little guy by the name of President George Bush declared Operation Iraqi Freedom which sent my Marine Reservist (who had less than 30 days on his contract) packing to one of the world’s largest sandboxes. So we were forced to wed with the immediacy of a shotgun wedding (like opening the court house on Sunday for a marriage license-talk about small town gossip). No I didn’t get to wear my dress because it needed alterations. I did wear it later when we had a celebration recommitment ceremony upon his return (Does this mean I married the same man twice? Yes.). So I will be transparent and say I didn’t quite follow the traditional route. However, ten years of life, love, and devotion has provided me a different perspective on marriage. It is also changed how I support people at their marriage.

For me and my house, we are two people who change every day because of life, but constantly work to enrich what we love about each other and maintain the common ground as sacred ground. We remain individuals, yet committed to the same goals for each other and for our marriage. For family and friends, our life and events are open access-we don’t deal with drama of family sides, making everyone happy, etc-but family/friends are free to be as miserable as they desire on their own turf.

If I were to marry my husband again (well, actually for the third time), I believe our vows would be a little different knowing what I know now. I am certainly committed to making a healthy marriage where there aren’t sides, where individuality is appreciated, and a union is sacred-and not only for my marriage. I believe living my/our life with these vows as a foundation impacts my relationships with others, my son’s future relationships, and others in my family for generations to come.  I will extend the same respect and support my friends and their marriage rather than making obstacles and barriers. I will appreciate them as individuals and as a union.  And…the next time I attend a wedding-I might just toss a coin and decide which side I will sit on…or maybe I will just sit right in the middle.

Today…I wish my spoon was full of wedding cake…because it is indeed one of my top three favorite foods!

Jewels of Wisdom In a Tiara

In Kentucky, glitz, fake tan, and hair spray fill the air. It’s the season for many young ladies to vie for a title at a local festival or county fair. Additionally, the summertime is usually when the  the Miss Kentucky (Miss America System) pageant is held here in the Commonwealth. You might find it surprising to know that at one time, I graced the pageant stages. I like to consider myself not the average grown up toddler with a tiara. As a matter of fact, one pageant consultant told me my look was too exotic-like I was bird or something. Which probably meant she thought I was ugly, didn’t fit the cookie cutter mode, or she thought I was better suited for another type of glitz (you can make up my stage name). A dear friend of mine quotes a scene from one of my favorite movies “Hope Floats” when we talk about pageants. She use to tell me if I had a daughter-she was going to constantly quote this movie….luckily I have son! In the movie, the quote goes something like this while driving back to Birdee’s hometown.

Bernice Pruitt (daughter): Is this where you were “cream of corn”?

Birdee Pruitt (mother): “Queen of Corn,” honey. Three years runnin’. A feat unsurpassed in the history of Smithville. Once upon a time your mama knew what it meant to shine.”

Yes, once upon a time, this mama knew what it meant to shine. I shined as Miss “my county”, Miss International Bar B Q (I will expose myself and say I am now a vegetarian), Miss Independence (that always had a sassy ring to it that I liked), and Miss Green River Valley.

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Most of the time, I tend to live life in the grey area.  So a portion of me wonders why I entered pageants and another portion is glad I did.  The rhinestone crowns are now dull and packed away in a box and my shiny silver trophies are now tarnished vintage trophies from another era.   A lot has changed since my pageant days. I am no longer a size two running through fast food drive-thrus to order extra value meals as a form of exercise (dang I mess that metabolism). I no longer duct tape my body parts; although some could use a little lift. Now instead of wagging around a menagerie of beauty appliances and products, you will find me carrying an iPad for work or a diaper bag full of necessities for a rambunctious toddler (goldfish, juice, dinosaurs, and diapers).  I even took the proceeds from selling my last pageant dress and purchased a beveled glass door for my first home (man, that door can shine!).

Overall, I am glad to be an ex pageant chick because I discovered a lot about myself and others. I learned –

  • to compete with yourself and be your best self. A good ol’ Kentucky girl, by the name of Diane Saywer (also a pageant queen) once said, “Competition is easier to accept if you realize it is not an act of aggression or abrasion…Whatever you want in life, other people are going to want, too. Believe in yourself enough to accept the idea that you have an equal right to it.” The friendships I made while competing are still very special to me today.
  • there are a lot of talented women who are beautiful on the inside and out. But the outside doesn’t always reflect the inside. Seems like females are more critical of ourselves and of each other than we should be. Can’t we all just embrace and appreciate a little junk in the trunk?
  • to voice my thoughts, answer questions, and articulate a sentence.
  •  the best doesn’t always win (of course,except for the years that I won).
  • there are a lot of great causes that need a voice.
  • someone will always have something to say about how you look and ultimately you are the person who decides how you internalize the opinions of others.  Embrace your inner exotic bird!
  • to be prepared for everything and be innovative.  In pageants it’s best to pack everything but the kitchen sink because you never know what you might need backstage. And when all else fails -you must innovate. During one pageant, I somehow brushed against something in my white swimsuit and ended up with a brown spot perfectly placed on my rear (you get the picture). The dressing room was in a commercial kitchen at an event facility-I opened the cabinet doors looking for any QUICK fix before I took the stage. What did I find? Powdered Sugar. Yes, my aunt helped me powder my rump with powdered sugar until the spot was hidden. I was just praying I didn’t leave a powder dust trail as I walked across stage. Just call me  sugar britches.
  • to be a gracious winner AND loser! Every day life is filled with battles you win and battles you lose.
  • tricks of the trade like Vaseline keeps your lips/lipstick from sticking to your teeth when you smile; Preparation H removes puffiness from your eyes; baseball mitt adhesive makes bathing suits stick when you strut your stuff  (yes, butt glue!); duct tape can do miracles, but it is hell to remove from your skin; exercising wrapped in Saran Wrap might shed some pounds-but people at the gym give you funny looks; and SPANX can work miracles (and they still do for mommas!).

I haven’t always been a “nerd” in academia…or I guess you would say an exotic nerd.  And, my pageant titles are not listed on my resume.  However, they are a part of what made me who I am today. When I was going through pictures for this blog, my toddler saw them said…”aww momma” and kissed me. I guess this momma can still shine! He did however say one of my pictures looked like daddy. I am not for sure what that says about my husband.

I still sing show tunes at the top of my lungs in my car and at home, but you won’t find me in duct tape or exercising in plastic wrap these days. I believe my path crossing with a lot of strong women and mentors I met during my pageant days did have a positive influence on my life. So, this summer when you see a pageant girl wave (picture the changing the light bulb style wave) at you at a local parade, fair or festival, realize there is value in what they are doing and hopefully they will use the experience to pay for their college, advocate for a good cause, and make a positive contribution to this world!

Today, my spoon is full of memories of shaking my tush on the catwalk.

Friend Measuring Stick-Reason, Season, Lifetime

Recently, I had a short visit with a dear old friend who I have seen maybe twice in the last 16 years. Unfortunately, the death of her father was the occasion that caused me to pay her a visit. Although years have passed since we shared fun and laughter in our teen years, I couldn’t help but want to hug her while she was struggling with the reality of losing her daddy. My encounter with her got me thinking about all of the fun (which for the sake of reputations I won’t go into details) we had and how there have been different friends for different reasons and seasons of my life. I know there have been tons of emails and Facebook poems about friends-so my epiphany is nothing really profound. However, sometimes we expect our friendships to all stay the same throughout our life-but the fact is we change every day and so do the friendships. Change doesn’t discount their value. Change doesn’t discount the importance of that person or the great fun and emotion experienced. There are friends that get us through childhood. There are friends that endure the awkward stages of puberty with us (zits and braces included). There are friends that help us make memories and survive the teen years (I really hated being a teenager). There are friends for the college years. Friends who join you to travel abroad and experience the world. Friends with whom you throwback your first (and maybe many after that) adult beverage, friends that offer you support and laughter in a Ph.D. program. Friends who are work friends. Friends that engage your inner most philosophicalness (I’m a communication major-I make words up) with deep conversations about life, love, and happiness. Friends who are family. Friends that you really don’t know why your friends. Friends that challenge you. Friends you want to choke because you know they aren’t living their full potential. Friends that help you survive your husband being deployed in a war.  A friend that lends a much needed smile or conversation in the grocery store line. Friends that share you anxiety on an airplane full of turbulence. All encounters, no matter how brief or long, shape us and provide us something needed in that very moment.  Friends are placed in our life for a greater purpose. The lessons we learn from each person are meant to help us grow. I propose we quit using the same measuring stick to measure all of our friends and enjoy the reason and season they were meant to fulfill.

The poem below captures exactly what I want to convey. I searched for the true author of this poem and surprisingly there is quite a bit of debate about that on the Internet. So when all else fails- “author unknown” and thank you for your wisdom whoever you are!

Reason, Season, or Lifetime

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

Today, my spoon is full of a lot of reason and season friends.

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