If Only Spiderman Could Fix All Evil

This week’s post was supposed to be filled with the Christmas holiday spirit; however, like many of you, my heart has been so heavy from the tragedy in Connecticut.  So many spoons once full of life, now so empty.  Upon hearing the news, as a mommy my mind shifted to the morning of the tragedy. Most likely, the last moments the parents shared with their child. I know the last moments are only a glimpse in time, but they must replay in the parents’ minds. Some parents and their children had great mornings before school drop off. Aren’t we always grateful for those mornings (well, we should be)? Other parents and children may have experienced a hectic morning filled with meaningless arguments of what to wear, get your backpack, we are running late, and hurry up. Don’t we always hate those mornings? And for some, the morning was just as ordinary as their cereal for breakfast and expected after school pickup. Regardless, no one knew the fate of the next hours-none of us really ever do.

I tried on Saturday morning to watch the news about the events. Just a quick update to be informed- much more would have been torture.  In the background noise was the giggles of my toddler in another room. Watching such horror while a giggling toddler was near did not seem right. So I quickly turned off the news to join in a game of super heroes and wrestling with my two year old and husband.  My mind and heart were torn as whether or not to talk about what had happened on a two-year old scale to my toddler or to save the conversation for later years. My toddler has the memory of an elephant-so I decided to say something, even though small, rather than nothing. I believe in equipping kids with the reality they live in at every age. So, I sat my toddler in my lap and in two year old language told him “if you ever see a mean person trying to hurt kids at school or anywhere, run and hide like when we play hide-and-seek.” He really seemed to listen and I was proud of my parenting moment. So I followed up with, “now tell mommy what you would do if you were to see a mean person trying to hurt you or other kids?” He jumped up into a fighting stance like he was in a boxing ring, cast his spider man web hands and said “I beat you up mean man.” Can you tell his dad was a Marine? Okay, so maybe two is a little early for this talk. But even if a seed was planted and it protects him until he is old enough to understand more, then so be it.

I’ve seen post on Facebook and overheard discussions all trying to make sense of this mess. The truth is that the events were senseless and the only thing that makes real sense is to keep the momentum going in the many little ways that over time might add up to a big difference.  Turning school leaders into gun toting educators isn’t the answer. Educators have enough to do already! This southern gal believes in the right to own guns, but also strongly believes there are major improvements in regulations to be made. Throwing an 8×10 photocopy of the Christian 10 commandments on the wall is not an answer. Posted Ten Commandments do not equate to “God” being back in schools. Did “He” ever really leave? I like to think that whoever is in control of the Universe is a little less shallow than requiring self-portraits and commandants posted in buildings to ensure protection. If you believe “God” (insert your higher power of choice) wasn’t in the school-reexamine the lives spared and the heroes that emerged. Look at the goodwill, love, prayers, and tears poured into a town most of us never heard of before last week. Just like evil, good (and God) comes in many forms.

So where do we go from here? How do you stop the seemingly unstoppable? We do not forget the misery Connecticut feels after the media has moved on to a new story. We encourage the government to put funds into structuring safe schools and we do it with the fever of airport security post 911. We realize that sweet American children are not the only children who face senseless violence-it is worldwide. We demand a thorough review of gun regulations and do something with the findings. We talk more openly with our children about good and evil. We take a hard look at our healthcare system and educational policies to see if they really support families and students that live with mental health issues. We remove the stigma to create open dialogue about mental health issues. We stop pointing a finger at failing parents and schools and start pointing kids in the right direction by setting an example, by mentoring, and increasing self-worth for those that can’t see it in themselves.  We continue talking about this subject and start doing….more. We don’t act like it can’t happen in our children’s schools, in our movie theaters, in our malls and any other place we enjoy everyday freedoms. We play an active role and we continually stretch our thinking so that we may see all sides of an equation in order to arrive at a better solution. We work on savoring every spoonful of life, even the hectic or ordinary everyday mornings.

My mommy brain jumps from the morning of the event, to the reality of where families who lost loved ones will find themselves- with Christmas gifts hid away in a closet, yet to be wrapped for a sweet child no longer on this earth. The empty beds. The shattered dreams of things yet to come- a family vacation to see Mickey Mouse, graduations, weddings, grandbabies, etc. It’s really uncomprendable. May the family and friends of the children and adults who met an unfair fate that day find hope in what is seemingly such a hopeless time in their lives. May their spoons be full of kind moments, momentum for change, and the perseverance to live each day. I will continue to teach my child the realities of good and evil and pray he never has to “beat up the mean people” by casting his Spiderman web.

Coop & His Hero

Casting Webs On Evil

Today my spoon is full of hope for the good that will continue to emerge and multiple from this horrific event.

 

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.

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.

Maw: A heap of wisdom and a side of macaroni

Holding hands her last week

It’s been one year today since I saw her take some of her last struggling breaths.There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss my grandmother, better known in our family as “Maw”.  I know, how red neck, “maw”.  However, I am the oldest grandchild so I guess that I am the one to blame for that term of endearment.  However, Nancy Merle Stratton Mann was proud of that title. I miss her nagging love and her macaroni and cheese every day.

Losing my grandmother during the first year of my son’s life was filled with irony.

Maw meets Cooper

While he grew healthy, she wilted. He learned to feed himself, I fed her. He learned words, she forgot hers. He learned to walk, she became idle. Two opposite ends of life’s spectrum but all fleeting moments on this journey. Somewhere between taking our first breath and learning to walk to taking our last breath and forgetting how to walk, we impact our family, friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers in ways we might not ever know.

I don’t think we really know the beauty of life until you experience the loss of life. What I mean by that statement is we rarely embrace who a person is and what a person has taught us while they are alive. Maybe we do in fleeting moments-but not profoundly and whole heartedly. It’s not until someone is gone that we experience the absence of what was there that will be there no more. That may sound like a “duh” statement. However, absence means different things for different people and different relationships-from love and support to shackles and chains and everything in between. When I sum up the countless hours I spent with my Maw over 33 years of my life, I have summed up a little what I have learned from her that others may benefit from, below. Some of this wisdom comes from her strengths, while others come from her weaknesses (even though she was Maw-she was still human). Below are the spoonfuls of wisdom I learned from Maw.

Believe in something greater. For my grandmother, this was without a doubt the Holy Spirit. For others, it might come in the form of something else. However, there is very few days that I remember her not humming a song, saying a prayer, or quoting something about faith. Believing in something greater carries you through the good and carries you through the bad.

Spread your wings, but home is where the heart is.  I can’t say that my grandmother ever had the luxury of spreading her wings as far as the experience of higher education (heck she didn’t get the opportunity to graduate high school) or extensive travel is concerned. Frankly, this is an area where we differed. She was content at home; I have a desire to see every corner of the world. However, no matter where my journeys have taken me-it is true that home is where your heart is. No matter how much I hated telling her goodbye and listening to all of her frets about me being gone when I would leave for work or pleasure…I always enjoyed seeing her smile when I returned.

Do your best and be a winner. Whether it was a bake sale or a beauty pageant-my grandmother was there with me to win it. Reflecting, she may have lived vicariously through all of us. But none the less, I can probably thank her and blame her for my Type A personality.

Rest yourself. I can remember when I was a young girl, my grandmother would constantly say “Stacy, rest yourself.” You see, I had lots of questions and lots of things to talk about when I was little (guess that is still true since I am blogging). In an attempt to keep my mom from strangling me, Maw would just say “rest yourself” in other words, quit talking. She could have said shut up, don’t’ say a word, or a dozen other things. Or let my mom strangle me for goodness sake and just put an end to all the talking and questions. However, “rest” has a profound undertone. When you rest, you listen. And in life, it’s important that you have quiet time to rest and listen to others as well as your heart.

If the shoe or bra doesn’t fit-something is wrong with it.  My grandmother suffered a lifelong battle of finding a shoe that fit her long, narrow foot and a bra that fit…well, her curves. I can’t even begin to count the number of shoes and bras my aunt and mother brought home for my grandmother to try on over the years (she hated fitting rooms). None of them fit right and usually all got returned. However, she never gave up hope of finding the perfect pair or the right fit. Most importantly she never questioned her body or at least she never caused me to think she did. I think that it takes a lot of endurance and confidence. Maw, I’m still looking for the perfect bra too…but really, you could have given those genes to another grandchild.

If you have a dog-name him Tip. Really, what this means if you find something that works and you like-why change it. I honestly lost count, but my grandparents have had at least 3 or 4 dogs that all look alike and are all named Tip. In the chaos of constant change, sometimes it’s nice to have something that stays the same-even if it is just your dog’s name.

It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Nancy Merle

My grandmother was a “real looker” when she was younger. I think she looked like Project Runway material! My grandmother was unique in the sense that she had one blue eye and one green eye. Sounds kind of odd-but it was kind of neat. Ironically, Tip 3.0 (or maybe 4.0) also has a blue and brown eye (he is still alive and faithfully hanging out with my grandfather).  I learned from my grandmother that no matter your actual or perceived degree of beauty, riches, etc. treat everyone the same. When we see each other as the same-we treat each other as the same with love, kindness, respect, and dignity.

Control. It’s more than a Janet Jackson song. My grandmother was what we could call a bit of a control freak and a worry wart. I have this same tendency but waving goodbye to my husband as he left Iraq-changed that a bit for me. The moment we realize we have no control is actually the same moment when you learn you have the most control (think about that a second). I don’t think Maw-ever lost control. She liked to know where all of her kids and grandkids were at all times-that was like 20+ people!  And, well she had weekly, if not daily, reports from most of us in the family. Maw wasn’t a big fan of TV but enjoyed her police scanner.  She loved listening to the dispatch calls….I am sure she heard one of us get pulled over a time or two! None the less, I always watched her struggle with control. I believe she truly felt if she controlled and knew everything, then nothing bad would happen. As luck would have it, she had a pretty good run at nothing happening to our family-all healthy and relatively boring. I have to say, her struggle with this, has taught me not to worry-that’s its interest paid on undue debt. Enjoy life, because it’s the moments you don’t worry about and the moments you lost control that you tasted life the most.

Memorialize. My grandmother honored the deceased members in her family EVERY Memorial Day by placing flowers on their graves. We would load up in the car as a family and go visit various gravesites. On our visits to the gravesites throughout our county, she would tell us about the person, who was who, etc. I wish I would have written it all down over the years; especially the last year we went. I could kick myself for not doing it. But I was a clumsy 9 month pregnant woman and she was a clumsy 80 something year old, and quite frankly, I was pleased we both made it back from the gravesites without any broken limbs. Anyways, these yearly visits and her fake flowers taught me the importance of remembering there is a story in every name etched on those monuments and an aching heart somewhere.

Water your flowers. Cover the flowers. Get milk. Get in the basement. When a summer day was going to be a scorcher, my grandmother would call and say…”you better water your flowers.” Likewise, when we would receive a late frost, she would call and say, “cover your flowers.” If snow was forecasted she would call and say…”better get some milk” (which I always did even though I hate milk…better safe than sorry, right?). If it was calling for a thunderstorm she would call and say “you better get in your basement.” None the less, what my grandmother was telling me was be prepared for whatever event life was throwing at you. And… you will have pretty flowers and milk in your fridge.

Let’s be real, there are SO many things I learned from Maw that I will always cherish. I hope the few things I have listed have caused you to think or provided you a chuckle. I wish she were still here to enjoy my rambunctious Cooper, to experience the great accomplishments of her other grandchildren, and to tell me her secret ingredient in that dang macaroni and cheese (I think it was probably love and maybe a little saliva from taste testing).

Today, I wish my spoon was full of maw’s macaroni and cheese; which ironically is my son’s favorite food!