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.

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!

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.

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!

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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