Walking Away

As a Mom and an education professional the beginning of this school year looked different for me than the start of school years passed. This school year was different because my five year old son started a new school. I started the school year on a scooter after having surgery on my ankle. Instead of driving my son to school and myself to work, my mother picked us both up and delivered us to our destinations…kind of like the old days when I was a child and she was my taxi; except we are older and an extra mini-me is tagging along in a carseat.

I was determined to “walk” my son into this new building with new faces and new ideas…that’s what mom’s do, right? So my Mom would pick us up each morning, drive us to my son’s school, and unload the scooter so I could “walk”, I mean “roll,” my son into school. Then my mom would load me up and take me to work and unload me again. I would roll away, dreaming of day I can walk away from the car on my own without assistance.  After about two and half months, I was cleared to walk again and our routine returned to normal.  I walked away.

On scooter or feet, there were many days at the beginning of the school year, when I walked my son into school and he held my hand tight or clung on to me because goodbyes can be hard (and kids are generally experts at guilt tripping parents). There were days he clung to my neck like a chimpanzee and days my skirt felt like it might fall to my knees from him tugging on me.  After dropping him off at school, I would get in my car and on the way to work worry about him. Luckily, my drive time worries were short lived with less than a mile drive to my place of work and the realities of my workday smacking in the face as soon as I enter the doors. But, on the short drive and throughout the day I worried about how long this behavior would keep up? Was he not transitioning well? Was there something I was missing? Shouldn’t he be outgrowing the clingy stage? And on and on the questions grew within my heart and mind.

For the first months of schools, we kept our routine up each morning, me talking about how big boys act at drop off and shoving him onto an activity with his friends or into the arms of his teacher as I dropped him off. I bribed him with ice-cream treats and other rewards if he acted like a big boy.  And then one day, it happened. I walked him into his classroom and he just walked away without a kiss, hug, or a goodbye. No tears. No chimpanzee moves. Nothing. I was stuck between the two conflicting universes of happy and sad. Should I skip out of the school singing or mope out crying? I think I skipped out of the building and then I cried.

Then a few days later, something bigger happened. We pulled up to his school one morning, I parked the car to get him out, and he said “Mom, I am going in by myself today. Just stay in the car.” To which I replied “well, I will walk you across the parking lot to the building and get the door for you.” And he replied to my suggestion with “No, I don’t want you to. I got this Modder (Mother).” So off he went across the parking lot with a bounce in his step wearing his oversized backpack and carrying his lunchbox. I watched him walk away.

As I watched him walk away, I recorded the moment in my forever memory bank. I played it over and over in my head for days to come as I thought about his new found behavior…his new freedom to walk away.

The remainder of our morning drop offs this year, go something like this. He unbuckles his car seat and hops out of the car. I help him put his backpack on and give him his lunch box. He gets a big hug and kiss from me. As he walks away, I yell out “I love you, have a great day, and make good choices.” Without turning around he yells back, “Okay, I love you too and I will. Okay Mom.” I watch him walk away from me and bounce with pep in his step to his next adventure. I walk away and I get in the car, close the door and my heart says a silent prayer of thanks for him with a universal request that the world is gentle on him today. And, let’s face it, that he will be gentle on the world, too. Each time he walks away, I can’t wait to hear about his great adventures on the other side of his day.

Not too long after he started walking into school on his own, I captured this video to remember the feelings and emotions I experienced of him walking away.

I have thought about the emotions associated with walking away. I know my Mom was happy to see me walk away and not have to haul me around anymore as a teenager and as an adult on a scooter, but she was probably also a little sad that she wasn’t needed in that same capacity any longer. It seems that society has programmed us to think of walking away with sadness and loss. Walking away has a bad connotation to it- it makes us feel like we are giving up, calling it quits, or losing something. When I think about moments I have walked away, for good/happy reasons or failure/sad reasons, it seems that happiness always emerged eventually. So maybe walking away isn’t so bad and it really is about seizing the next opportunity, rather than losing something you are walking away from in that moment. Maybe what you are walking into is more exciting, than the loss of what you are walking away from.

It’s my job to teach my son when and how to walk away. There will be various forms of chimpanzees that want to hold on to his neck to hold him back and prevent him from moving forward. Heck, there will be a day when I am senile and I might act like a chimpanzee. However, I want him to know the strength of being able to walk away and listen to his inner voice that says “I got this.”

There will be lots of times, this precious boy of mine will walk away. This life is his journey to walk, not mine. Really, I am just fortunate to be along for the ride…even if my view is his backside walking away. I hope I am lucky enough to see him walk away to his new big school next year, to middle school, to high school, and on to college (if any Notre Dame reps are reading this-he has plans for a soccer scholarship so just call us because we can commit early). I want to experience the joy and excitement when he walks away from me and onto opportunities like field trips, special adventures, traveling the globe, and serving others. I look forward to seeing him walk away from me and walk down the on isle to commit to the love of his life, to his first job, to go meet his first born, and all the other life moments HIS journey holds. A journey that includes many stops that are his to walk without me.

Today my spoon is full of anticipation of when I get a chance to walk with him like old times. For example, like when his valentine box was just too much too carry and he needed my help or when we had two dozen cupcakes to drop off at school. I proudly jump out of the car and walked with him.

Full Hands, Full Heart

What are little boys made of? According to a 19th century nursery rhyme

          What are little boys made of?

          Snips and snails    

         And puppy-dogs’ tails,

         That’s what little boys are made of.

The same rhyme states that little girls are made out of sugar, and spice, and everything nice. As a girl, I would have to agree. As a mom of a boy I can attest that on top of the snips of just about anything snippable, snails, and puppy dog tails that little boys are full of sugar, spice, and everything nice as well.  Mothering has allowed me to learn a lot about boys…and inadvertently I have a better understanding of grown men. Having a boy was meant to be for me. I think I must have had an intuition that I would raise a son. When we were thinking about starting a family, my husband and I only had a boy’s name in mind. The night before our ultrasound to determine the gender, I dreamed the baby was a boy…and indeed it was clear by the very first ultrasound picture our baby was a bouncing baby boy. I should have known by all of his kicking and squirming during my pregnancy, that I had an adventurous fellow on my hands. As a matter of fact, he punched and kicked me so much when I went into the hospital to be induced, it turned out to be more than him kickboxing my internal organs…I was already in labor and didn’t know it. He was ready to discover the world…he has always been a step ahead of me.

While he has spent the last five years discovering this grand world, I have had the opportunity to rediscover its beauty and simplicity through him. The last few years have been filled with my son saying hundreds of times “Mommy, look!” and then each squeal of excitement for me to look is usually followed by his hands opened wide to show me his newest discovery. I will admit, sometimes when he has been too quiet for too long, I meet him with a little hesitation afraid of what I might see. When this started occurring on a regular basis, I started taking pictures of his hands each time. I wanted to savor the moment because it meant more to me than just seeing a turtle, frog, or a bird. Luckily, we haven’t picked up a snake…YET.

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In all of his discovery and my picture taking, I was reminded how much I love those little hands that grow in size and bravery each and every day. Those little hands are the sugar, spice, and everything nice…the gateway to his curiosity, imagination, and heart. They are the hands that stole my heart. On the days that my hands are full with love, life, and work, his tiny hands remind me to keep an open heart and mind, as well as, to see the beauty in the moment – to “look” at what surrounds me at THAT moment rather than what is behind me or before me.

He uses his tiny hands to stuff his little cheeks full of watermelon, to pray, to make messes, to dig in the dirt, to discover the world around him, to share, to clap, to play games, maybe pick his nose when I am not looking (ughh), make funny dance moves, etc. He loves to use his hands to color, paint, and make creations out of Legos, towel rolls, rocks, and sand. I love when he reaches his hands out to me for a hug. I love how he twirls his fingers in my hair when we snuggle. I love holding his sticky, dirty hands. My hands and heart are full, thanks to this little guy.

His hands remind me of a quote by Taisen Deshimaru, a Buddhist teacher which states “Keep your hands open, and all the sands of the desert can pass through them. Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit.” I strive to teach him to always have his hands open to explore, to help others, and to make a positive mark on this big that world we all share.  I hope his excitement for life, for discovery, for people, for nature doesn’t wain as he grows. I hope he always extends a hand to help others, and has the wisdom to know when he needs to accept a helping hand. I hope he knows when to use his hand to give someone a pat on the back and occasionally, give himself one. I hope when life deals him a bad “hand” that he will find the beauty in the ugliness and not close his hands and heart-only feeling the grit. Mostly, it is my hope that I raise him with open hands to share with the world so that he is free to find his place in this world, that I find joy in his discovery, and I don’t feel the grit of the years passing us by so quickly.

Today, my spoon is full of a handful of lessons learned from snips, snails…and a boy begging to add a puppy dog tail to our house.

Four-Ever Memories of Three

To my soon-to-be four year old:

How can you be four? Wasn’t it yesterday that you were just four seconds old and I saw your chubby face for the first time? Wasn’t it yesterday, that you were four months old and eating Gerber turkey and gravy and sweet potatoes baby food for Thanksgiving? Four years sure have flown by. You remind me daily that you are super deep big (deep apparently means a LOT) and that you have hair on your legs. Your adventurous spirit has made me a thrill seeker of your life moments. I try to burn those moments and your contagious giggle deep into my mind so I can reminisce on these days when I am 100 years old sitting in my rocking chair.

You have had a BIG third year of your life and I am sure number four will prove to be equally as adventurous. Three years old started out with a month-long celebration of your birthday (you have already been celebrating your upcoming number four for two weeks). You started preschool this past year and you have learned so much. You can write your name, rattle off numbers, recite the ABCs, and recall random facts about the weather, seasons, animals, etc. I have learned and relearned so much from you. For example, I know about dinosaur species-which dinos are meat eaters and plant eaters; what every creature eats and where they live; the workings of every type of construction vehicle and crane; and old nursery rhymes and games are new again. You have sung songs from the movie Frozen and Blake Shelton’s Boys Round Here no less than 100 times per week (that is 5,200 for the year). I particularly love that in Shelton’s song you sing at the top of your lungs that you are kicking up “ducks” instead of dust. We have watch lots of Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, and Superhero Squad. You are proud that you can reach the light switches and climb into the tub on your own. You enjoy Facetime and talking on the phone with family. You see yourself as the protector of your best buddy cousin “Tole” (Cole) who is only 6 months younger. You have caught turtles, frogs, lightening bugs, butterflies, crawdads, and salamanders. You still pee in the yard, but I have at least contained you to one tree. Every time you see an airplane fly overhead, you fling your arms out and say “take us to the beach.” You have completed your first 5K on Mommy’s shoulders because you would not ride in the stroller; went camping and canoeing; explored caves, museums, and zoos; taken swimming lessons; joined the Padres’ T-Ball team (and asked me what is a Padre every game and asked why can’t you be on the Pirate team); had a blast on Halloween as Captain America; were amazed when you saw an off-duty Santa eating at local Froyo place and wondered where his reindeer parked; built snowmen and gingerbread houses; played endless games of boomerang, soccer, football and army men with Dad; have flown a kite, fed ducks, donkeys, and cows; went fishing; lived off of yogurt, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza, fettuccine, strawberries and watermelon; and you have started to like salad.

Your little chubby face and legs are still chubby but not as much as they once were. As I have watched you grow throughout  your third year, there have been many times throughout the year that I have paused because you have reminded me of one of our family members; after all you are the perfect combination of years of DNA. Some may say it’s because I want to see those traits from the one’s I love, but I believe the fabric of your being is made from generations of love.

me 3Mom: You know me as Mommy or Moder (mother) if you are being silly. Some wonder if you even belong to your Dad or if you’re an asexual reproduction. Simply put, you are me with boy parts. Pictures of me, age birth through  four look just like you. You also have my organizational mind and love of trying new things (except for new food-you don’t stray). You have my tough spirit and do not let much get under your skin. We share a love for seeing, experiencing, and enjoying this great world.

clay 3Dad: You know him as Daddy and he is your best friend. You have your Dad’s mechanical brain. You can put stuff together and take things apart with ease. You have his strong, patriotic heart. You have his fratboy party spirit for good times and adventure (God, help us!). You have his athletic ability. You are both gentlemen.

 

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Maternal grandmother: You know her as Mimzi. You have her quick wit and because of this you both spend most of your days as friendenemies (friend + enemy) trying to push one another’s buttons. You can both be stubborn, but will fight for what and who you love. You have her weird toes.

 

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Maternal grandfather: You know him as Popppa. You have his round face, brown eyes, his love of sweets, and his love of Four E Farms. You also have his heart; you have said that you want to work like Poppa and help people when you are big. Maybe he will finally have an offspring who follows a career in pharmacy.

 

di and grePaternal grandfather: You know him as Poppy. You have his love for nature and the great outdoors. You are also kind like he is and always willing to help others. And…we can’t forget your Paternal step-grandmother: You know her as Nana. You aren’t blood, but she loves you just like family. You both know how to enjoy a good time and like giving Poppy a hard time.

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Paternal grandmother: You know her as Grandma. You share her creativity and her persistence.

 

 

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Maternal-Maternal great grandmother: You did meet Maw, but you were too tiny to remember. She was so proud of you. You have her love of music and her blind faith in something greater. She was also on alert for bad weather and you are always asking about “cornadoes” (tornadoes).

 

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Maternal-Maternal great grandfather: You know him as Grandfather. At times, I think you laugh like him. He has a distinct chuckle. You also have his mind and hands-on ability to build and create just about anything you set your mind to. I hope you have his great complexion-he has made it to his eighties without wrinkles.

 

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Maternal-Paternal great grandfather: You never had a chance to know him, but, like your Momma, you have his big lips. He also had a big smile like you-this picture doesn’t do it justice.

 

 

Granny

Paternal-Paternal great grandmother: You never had a chance to know her. She would have loved you! You possess her love of family and ability to see the best in people.

 

 

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Paternal-Paternal great grandfather: I never met him, nor have you. However, your Dad tells me you are strong like him and share his sense of humor. He was also a very smart man. He spent his career studying oceanography-maybe that is why you love the beach.

 

As you can see, Son, you are made up of some pretty remarkable people. You have some of their best qualities. The fabric of your being is uniquely you, yet a part of others. I have loved watching you bud into a little person this past year, as well as having the opportunity to reflect on the family I love as your actions sometimes remind me of them.

Four years old, marks the end of the toddler years and beginning of the child years. As you turn four you will grow smarter, taller, and stronger-but as I tell you-you’re always my baby. To which you say “you mean BIG baby!” It is my promise to you, to make the child years as adventurous and loving as the toddler years have been.

I love you the mostest,

Moder

XOXO

Today, my spoon is full of four-ever memories of my toddler.

 

 

 

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.

I Love Fools

Abraham Lincoln once said “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” On that principle, I focus on fooling “some of the people” in my life ALL THE TIME…each April Fools’. I anxiously await April Fools’ to roll around like a kid waits for Santa. Each year I can fool my “some people” which include my family.. .after all, nothing says I love you like making a fool out of you!

My love of April Fools’ comes from my father. I can recall as a child, he always worked very hard to fool one of my aunts. Additionally, the “holiday” was always fun because my maternal grandmother would anxiously await a phone call to hear the stories about how we “got” our April Fools’ victim. Over the years, I have developed my fooling technique to an art form. In fact, so well that my Dad tried to call a truce in 2010 while I was pregnant so I “wouldn’t get hurt.” Nice try, Dad! My family threatens to not accept any form of communication (call, text, written) on April 1st from me. Luckily, they can’t seem to resist me.

My ground rules for fools are nothing mean, hurtful, stinky, or dirty. I only conduct pranks that evoke a good laugh on everybody’s part…or at least almost every one. There are two types of pranks a person can play on April 1st. The first type is the run-of –the mill one I call the old “hot iron strike”…. you strike when the iron is hot.

  • For example, my brother is one of those crazy University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans. Typically, near April Fools’, March Madness has wrapped up and the sport is narrowing in on the Final Four. So because he is cray cray mad with his sports this time of year, I have gotten him year after year on something about the KY Wildcats. “Did you hear so and so broke a leg?” “I can’t believe Tubby is coming back to coach?” “Did you hear Rupp Area caught on fire?” Gullible-party of one, your April Fools’ joke is ready!
  • Another example of a hot iron strike can be illustrated with my husband. Last year, he was very tired on April Fools’ Eve and constantly asking are you going to “get me” or “what are you doing to me tomorrow?” My family lives in fear of this day! We went to bed on the Eve around 11:00 PM. And…he was awakened at 12:01 by his alarm that I set and me saying “April Fools’”. Dead asleep, unsuspecting…you strike.
  • Let’s take this year for another example. My hubs has been very excited that he has gotten off work “on-time” or at least not drowning in work the last couple of days. I noticed he left his laptop in the car when he came home last night. Honestly; I am surprised the laptop doesn’t have a pillow in our bed. I casually inquired if he had any work to do before we went to bed and he said “no”. I then checked his calendar on his iPhone to make sure he wasn’t meeting with anyone clients first thing in the morning on April Fools’. Nope-just a conference call on the calendar. STRIKE-the iron is hot! So, I snuck out to his car, took out his laptop and fitted it with pair of animal print underoos. That laptop patiently waited for him to push her buttons all night until his 7 AM conference call.

The second type of fool, is what makes for a great April Fools, I call this type the “Legendary”…you know the type that families talk about for decades. I can hear it now, “Remember when Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother Edds-Ellis did….” Okay, maybe I won’t be able to hear because I will be a goner by then -but you get the gist of what I am saying about legendary-they are EPIC!! Every now and then, the opportunity to enact a Legendary style fool creeps up on you when you least expect it and other times it takes careful plotting. I typically reserve the legendary status for my father. I know he was fooled if he pretends it didn’t happen and wants to act as if he can’t be fooled-all while secretly pouting. My April Fools’ sensei has now become my favorite victim. So what are some examples of the legendary plots?

  • Probably my all-time favorite on my Dad is when I moved his truck at work. He always parks in the same spot, but lucky for me and unluckily for him I know his key code to the truck door and where he hides his keys. This particular April Fools’ he worked the closing shift so my husband and I sit in the parking lot of his work watching for him as he walked out the door to go home and started looking for his truck in the spot it was always in and it was gone. After he wandered around for a few minutes, he headed to talk to the security guard patrolling the parking lot so we had to break our silence and yell April Fools’.
  • Last year, was my parents first April Fools’ in their new home. The lot they built their home on is unique because along one side of the lot is a brick privacy wall. My parents discussed numerous times about how they got “lucky” to have a lot with a wall that helps enclose a portion of their backyard, how it works well for landscape, etc. So…..I capitalized and wrote an official letter from a fictional city department informing them their wall would be torn down due to road expansion and would take some totally unreasonable time to rebuild. The notice was taped to their front door. I think my Mom and Dad both fell for it because my father wouldn’t answer my phone calls all day that day or the next.
  • Another epic fooling happened today. Last week I notice that my Dad set a cage that is a trap in his front landscaping. Apparently, something has been digging up the mulch in his landscaping and each time he recovers it, this critter clears the area again. So, my Dad decided he would catch this city critter and relocate to his farm. He and my mom have put out lettuce, cat food, a hotdog etc…trying to catch this unknown critter. Well, this April Fools’ they caught something! I took a coon skin hat my parents brought back from a vacation as a gift to my toddler (I promise we have no lineage to Duck Dynasty) and I stuffed it and pinned it to make a shape of a critter. And I lovingly secured a small sign to the critter’s “belly” stating “April Fools’.” My husband dropped it off in the wee hours of the morning on his way to the gym before work. Little did he know at the time he had a little critter in his backpack inside his laptop bag…hehehe.

So you might understand now why my family avoids me and lives in fear on April Fools’ Day. Don’t think I just pick on the men in my family, I believe in equality and I get the women too! And if the truth be told, a co-worker got me this year. And…my husband pulled out my old trick from last year and set my alarm for an earlier time than usual. Even a pro like me can be a victim every now and then! To carry on this family tradition, I started training my son on the art of April Fools’ on the way to preschool this morning. We traded fools on the way to school and practiced on our fool for Dad later tonight. Muwhahha!

Today my spoon is empty…April Fools’! Today my spoon is full of good laughs at some of the people I love fooling all of the time.

All in a Day’s Work

Recently my toddler and I were in the car on the way to preschool and work. Even though my brain is not yet awake, he loves spending our short morning commute asking questions-most of which I do not know the answer to or the answer is too complicated for 7:45 AM. Things like, “why did that tree grow there?” “Does Santa go on vacation to the beach?” “How old was I when you were a baby, mommy?”  “Why do donkeys like to eat carrots”? “How old will I be when I have a beard?” “Will I grow up to be a giant?” And the questioning goes on and on and on until we get to his preschool. Recently during the morning commute, my toddler was asking me about why people work and what they do for “work”. He questioned me on the “work” of all of the family and friends he could possibly think of (like 500 people) and we talked about what they do for work. He then said, “what’s my job, momma? Where do I work?” I responded that he works at preschool and his job was to learn all sorts of new things, have fun with his friends, and to be kind and helpful (terrible threes-that is a real hard performance measure to achieve some days). As we pulled into the parking lot to his “job” (AKA preschool) my answer about his work seemed to pacify him and he jumped out of the car to head in for a hard day of work on pajama day.

Fast forward to a few hours later that day, I was at my work in a meeting. I spend way more hours than I care to calculate in meetings. At this particular meeting my mind drifted off for a split-second (really, it was just for a bit) and I started thinking about my toddler and wondering how his “work” day was going. I then begin to think, what if my toddler took my place for a day at work. How would his day be different than mine? I mean I could use a pajama day and some time to play with my friends. What would my toddler do (WWTD) if he was sitting at this board room table in a meeting? Looking around at my colleagues picturing them as toddlers, I thought if I acted like a toddler in this meeting by mimicking some of my son’s behaviors, it might look something like this.

Example

WWTD

How   to apply to apply it in the adult “work” world

Action Items Say NO to every question and request just because you can.  Do you think we should implement this initiative? NO! Do you want to schedule another meeting? NO. Do you think we can all agree….I said Noooo! Sometimes you need to say NO. Keep a healthy work and life balance and say NO where and when you should.
Meeting Discussion Dominators Make funny objects or paper airplanes out of meeting notes and agendas and throw at people who talk too much. Break the “rules” and think outside the box.
Ice Breakers Eat boogers or let one rip and then giggle. Have fun. Have a good laugh at yourself. Take the opportunity to get to know others and allow others to know the authentic you!
Questioning Ask “why” as many times as possible. Why are we doing this? Why are   these chairs so uncomfortable? Why are we meeting again? If you don’t understand something, question it and keep asking   questions until you get it.
New Technology Use your electronic device app with a talking cat, lady bug or dino. Record everyone talking in the meeting and   play it back with the cat, bug or dino voice on full volume. Try something new to get your message across. No death by PowerPoint or reading word for word. Be creative with the tools available!
Buy In  I “Insert Name” you are being   very ugly.  or “You are rude.” or “You are not my very best friend anymore.” Speak your mind, let it go, and move on. If you don’t like someone or how they are acting-tell them. Don’t hold a grudge.
Integrity Be a tattle tale – “I just broke your toy?” or “Insert name” is being   mean.” Sometimes you have to call it like you see. Even when it means be   truthful with your own behavior.
Camaraderie Call people names. “You are a chocolate monkey butt”. (This is an endearing term my toddler uses for his aunt) Forge meaningful connections with those around you with humor.
Attendance Show up and sing to your own tune! Insert my toddler’s mean mixture of Katy Perry’s “Fire” and Blake Shelton’s “Boys Round Here”. Be present (guilty-that is how I came up with this blog idea).
New Ventures “I want to go home. Where’s my mommy?” It’s okay to be anxious when trying something new or sticking your   neck out.

Oh, and I failed to mention, in the above toddler boardroom scenario, I am sure mints and coffee would definitely be replaced with Goldfish crackers and juice. Also, pajamas would be the new business casual and you could bring your favorite toy. Without a doubt, leaders can learn a few things from toddlers. Really, they remind and teach us about the basics of savoring life that somehow the world deprogrammed from us. As parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc. we have a lot to learn from children that can easily be transferred to our “work” life. The next time you are leading or attending a meeting, embrace your inner child. Eating your boogers might not work out so well, but hey a paper airplane never killed anyone, right?

Today my spoon is full of “work etiquette” from a toddler (said in my talking dino voice).

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.

The Not So Terrible Twos

Tomorrow I will be a mom of a three year old. I am not for sure where time has gone. A few days have felt like a decade and all the others have felt like a Nano second.  All in all, the days have added up to a lot of great memories. We have come a long way baby (screaming baby)! There have been challenges but also a time of great milestones and imagination.   We have moved from me stressing out as to whether a “heaping” scoop versus a “full” scoop of formula would kill you. Heck, now you eat dirt and your own boogers. I used to be tortured by your Dad looking for all of the answers to our questions in the What to Expect the First Year book. You don’t know how lucky you are to still have your Dad…I had many images of using that book as a deadly weapon during our 2 AM quests for knowledge about poop, screaming, eating, snot, etc. Now, we just go with the flow and hope for the best.

Every day this week my toddler has asked me “is it my birthday yet?” Followed by “I want my birthday!”, “I want to be three!” and “I need my birthday party!” Before we venture into 3s there are a few things I want to always remember about you being two. Everyone says the twos are terrible, but I found them to be terrific!

  • You have been blessed with great health. One ear infection all year! I guess boogers are great for the immune system.
  • Your second birthday party started out with a major flood. The Dino theme party I planned for you was saved when the sun finally popped through the rain clouds. You never even noticed that the rain messed up the dino dig I had planned for your special day.   I’m still ticked about it and now own more plastic dino skeltons than I care to admit.
  • This year you have road on planes, trains, a boat, a four-wheeler, a golf cart, a Gator (not the animal), a replica of the Nina, a Ferris wheel, a hot air balloon, an elephant, and a camel.
  • You have fed ducks (got bit by one), turtles, donkeys, goats, peacocks, fish, and a lama.
  • We have been to the beach twice…which you love and instantly turn into a pirate the minute you feel the sand between your toes. “Arrghh”! You have visited museums, zoos, and aquariums. You have seen a play (okay it wasn’t Broadway…it was Elmo Live) and a dino exhibit.  You attended your first WKU sports event…Go TOPS! You were the only kid that hated Shrek on Ice.
  • You took a drink from the Fountain of Youth (I was hoping it would keep you two for forever!), splashed at water parks and made your first snowman.
  • You have a new fascination with superheroes and getting the “mean men”. You even can cast a pretty good Spiderman web. You also gain superhuman strength each time you put on your Batman or Spiderman PJs.
  • You started the twos out in diapers and sleeping in my bed. Now you’re a big boy wearing underoos and sleeping in your own bed. You are the proud owner of 250 Hot Wheels that I bought off of Ebay and used to reward you each time you used the potty. Now I want to hit myself each time I step on one of those darn cars. We have mastered potty training, now if you will just quit dropping your pants and peeing everywhere and stop watering my landscape with your urine…it will be a complete success.
  • You had your first trip to the dentist. All that torturing you with brushing your teeth-paid off! However, you did make me look like an idiot because I didn’t realize you had a gash in your gums from where you fell down the day before. But you clearly articulated to the doctor what happened when she asked. Mother of the year here!
  • You have learned so many words and repeated a few that I shouldn’t have said!! Some you have worn out like the word “why”. Others you have your own way of saying them…here are a few of my favorite.
    • Orrrange  and Raannnnch (with a French accent)
    • You call your boots “boops” and your hat “hook”.
    • Your “yessss” has such a definite hiss to it.
    • Who can resist your “sorrrrrwey” and “pleeeaze”?
    • We need to work on your grammar -“Yes I is” “No me Not” and “Me Am” will only be cute for a few more years.
    • Cooper is “Pooper” which has some symbolism
  • You had your first brain freeze. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I laughed until I cried.
  • You have had your first crush on a girl.
  • You attended your first “friend” birthday party.
  • We built you a fort that probably could qualify as taxable living quarters.
  • You love to celebrate. You were excited for Halloween, but mad at me when your costume was a pirate bird, and not a real pirate outfit. You said you were “just a bird, not a pirate”.
  • You had a blast at Christmas. The drums you wanted for months was a real hit and you named your band the “Mud Truck Band”.  Maybe one day “Mudtruck” will be in flashing lights!
  • You can count, you know your shapes, and we are working on ABCs.
  • You are obsessed with anything construction and especially enjoyed watching our new home being built.
  • You love going to Pop’s Farm to feed the donkeys. You have even claimed it as “your farm”.
  • You become very attached to your tennis shoes. You don’t like to change. I had to throw away your Car tennis shoes in a dumpster in another state so you couldn’t get them out of the trash to wear.
  • You are proof that a human can live off of juice, pop tarts, nuggets, mac & cheese, and fruit for two years now.
  • You have a memory like an elephant which is a reminder to me to always strive for positive days to yield great memories.
  • You love to be on the move and you adore your family. You have a carefree way of enjoying them for just who they are and never seeing their short comings. I hope you always keep that spirit.
  • You love your “Titty Tat” (cat) but deep down you wish she acted more like a dog.
  • You have been mad at Santa ever since I told you he took your Christmas tree down. I passed the blame to Old St. Nick because you were disappointed and you are still asking when he is bringing it back. Surprise….it will be back in late November! You also hated the Elf on the Shelf which worked out great for me because I couldn’t ever remember to move the stupid thing. You were mad because he made messes and bothered your toys. So we decided he would just set on the shelf and not move.
  • On those few long days when we have had a time out…I can’t help but laugh when you are sitting in the timeout chair and yelling at me at the top of your lungs that “I is a good boy now”. Your tone is not so convincing. You now try to put us in timeout if we do something you don’t like.
  • You think kisses from girls, including me, are yuck…but I steal them from you anyway.
  • You try to tell jokes and crack yourself up. I have to admit “Hey Mom you have a fat elbow” is pretty funny when you say it. As long as you don’t say I have a fat rear end…I’ll keep laughing at your jokes.

There are so many more good times, but these are a sampling of ones I always want to savor in my spoon. I can’t wait, my dearest Coop, to see what adventures and fun the age of three will bring. Thank you for all the joy and excitement you bring to our life. You certainly keep us laughing and are a constant reminder that my spoon runneth over.

Today my spoon is full of fond memories of the not so terrible twos.

Why? Why?!? Why!!!

Why haven’t I been blogging lately? Well, I have been busy. Well, why have I been busy? Because I have been drowning in “whys” and it has apparently zapped my creative juices and energy. Why?!?

Being the mother of an almost three year old, my day from sun up to sun down (and sometimes even when the sun is fast asleep) consist of approximately 100,000,000,000 “whys” a day. Why is the sun bright? Why does they sun hide behind the clouds? Why does it rain? Why is that car black? Why is grass green? Why are there big trucks and little trucks? Why do we have to wear clothes? Why does our cat not work (yes, I have wondered that too, I mean it would be nice if she earned her keep or at least cleaned her litter box)? Why do cats have tails? Why does a cow moo and not bark? Why do I have to wash my hands? Why do we have to go this way? Why is that building there? Why is the Easter Bunny not at the Mall every day? Why don’t we have a beach (honey, I work in education, Momma can’t afford a private island). Why, why, and why? Each of these questions grows into about 3 or 4 questions about the subject until I can’t think of any answers. Frankly, I don’t know most of the answers at all. I am not a scientist, physicist, meteorologist, engineer, etc.? I just go along with the marathon of questions and answers until either I have to lie or admit defeat. And when I don’t know, I usually get “why don’t you know momma”? It’s painful to admit that, well, I don’t know everything and I certainly don’t know as much as I thought I did (but son, don’t tell your Dad). How do these girls on 16 and Pregnant survive when I have a dang Ph.D. and can’t think of all the answers?!

It’s exhausting. But the educator in me loves his inquisitive nature and strives to cultivate that and explain the world around us. I never want to mute his inquiry…I always want him to ask. I really think instead of a book on “What to Expect When Expecting”- I would actually read and benefit from a book entitled “Why: Everything you need to know in three year-old speak”. If there was only an iPhone app for “Why” (and I have been known to Google during desperate times). I have even tried a little reverse psychology and said “well, you tell me why.” To which, my son replied, “no you tell me why, you da momma.” It’s hard to be put on such a high pedestal of know it all.

I know one day, I will be in the car with my son and praying for something more than a grunt to come out of his teenage mouth. I guess that is when the payback begins and I can start asking him so many questions…to which I am sure he will make up the answers as well. And if that isn’t pay back enough, then I am sure he will have to repeat a lot of conversations during my elder years. Until then, I’ll savor the moment of him thinking I know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING because one day he will discover I am not a genius.

Today my spoon is full of why. Why? I DON’T KNOW!

Miss Kitty: The Cat’s Meow

Recently our family celebrated our cat’s, Miss Kitty, 13th birthday. This may sound like I have a teenager in the house, but in all actuality-she has moved on toward retirement. Thirteen equates to 68ish years in human years. Geez-no wonder cats need nine lives. In our eyes, she is the purrrrfect cat. As my toddler says “we wuv our cat much”. In 13 short years, she has survived 5 moves, endured a house remodel, sit by our laptops as we have worked to earn a combined 5 college degrees (she’s a smart cat), made peace with not being the only-child when our son made his debut, and went missing in action a time or two. Miss Kitty isn’t a lap cat, but you can always depend on her being somewhere near keeping an eye on life. Even though she isn’t as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as she once was, her belly sags, and she moves a little slower- she still has a little spunk left in her. In the past thirteen years, she has taught me a thing or two about life. If you love dogs, don’t be a sour puss, you might learn a thing or two from our cat.

  1. When life is crap, kick some litter over it, and move on. And…if you’re lucky, somebody might clean it up for you.
  2. Don’t wait for the sun to find you…find the sunny spots and move as they shift.
  3. Being man’s best friend is over rated. It is a dog-eat-dog world and it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen if you compare yourself to a dog. Make your own world, even if you don’t have nine lives.
  4. Be independent. Enjoy the company of others, but be able to stand on your on 2 feet (or paws).
  5. Look at things from different perspectives. Sitting on top of an armoire provides a different view than from under the bed-always take in different perspectives. Know when to stand out and know when to blend in.
  6. Spat, forgive, and forget. Life is too short to hold grudges.
  7. Use your claws wisely, bite seldom, and hiss sparingly. Scratches and bite marks may heal, but emotional wounds can remain forever.
  8. Be near the ones you love. Even if you aren’t a lap cat, enjoy the company you keep.
  9. Speak up when you want something. If someone doesn’t listen….speak again. MEOW!
  10. There is peace in solitude and silence. Sometimes retreating away to a hiding place is good for the soul.
  11. Take a cat nap: never underestimate the power of a good nap
  12. Pounce on every opportunity the world has to offer!
  13. When you are feeling spunky-play. Even if it’s a 2 AM and everyone else wants to sleep.
One cool cat.

One cool cat.

Ahhh..the sun.

Ahhh..the sun.

Please...I am trying to nap!

Please…I am trying to nap!

Cat in the Inbox

Cat in the Inbox

Checking out the dryer vent.

Checking out the dryer vent.

Know when to blend in.

Know when to blend in.

Expert Cat in APA

Expert Cat in APA

Today my spoon is full of great lessons from my cat. In my eyes, she is the Cat’s Meow!

Putting the Equal in Equality

In full disclosure, this blog posts contains words such as “feminists” “Hillary Clinton” “gender” “women’s rights” “Margaret Thatcher” “equality”. If you are excited by such topics, please keep reading. If you are rolling your eyes, well, roll them back into focus and keep reading; your perspective might be informed. Despite your stance on these topics, there is much to gain from discussing them. For women the value should be obvious. For men, the value should be obvious; you arrived on this planet via a stork known as a female. Chances are you may have a wife, a sister, a daughter, or other family members and friends who are female.

This post isn’t intended to stir a political debate. Regardless if your political beliefs align with Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton, or a combination of both, it should be undeniable that these women have made advances for all women in a predominantly male-driven culture. I am sure both Margaret and Hillary have stories to tell that would cause us to gasp, if we knew of some of the stereotypes that have been assigned by others and overcome publicly and privately throughout their careers and personal lives.

Additionally, this post isn’t intended to debate different types of women-working moms or stay at home moms, race, economic status, religion, etc. The ground rule for this post is as women, and as individuals, if we are doing what are bodies, minds, and souls were designed to contribute to this great planet Earth-then we are living a fulfilled life. In a fulfilled life there is no need to debate differences. Embrace the similarities and the differences and live a richer life.

Finally, this post isn’t a man-hater post. When I get on rants regarding women’s right my husband jokingly calls me a Fembot. I have a father, husband, and other males in my life who never slight me for being a woman. I also have males in my life who perpetuate stereotypes and I am challenged to defy their ignorance. So I “heart” the male race.

So, what is this post intended to do? With the aforementioned labels removed, I would like to propose three charges.

  1. We need more Iron Ladies in the world. And we need more men (and women) who can work with Iron Ladies. Nancy Regan shared that Margaret and Ronald were political soul mates which is a profound statement that says a lot about Nancy, Ronald, and Margret’s strong character. They were able to stow away insecurities and biases in the name of a better world. We need more women, who like Margaret Thatcher, are proud to embrace the qualities of being a woman, spouse, and/or mom while living a fulfilled life and making a difference. We need more women who make their own fulfilled paths on their terms. We need women who do not fear being bold leaders in their homes, communities, and world. We need women that create a conundrum where extremists (both feminist and bigamists) are left scratching their heads while work is positively moved forward.
  2. Women’s equity issues need resurgence. Love her or hate her, thank you Hillary for recently moving this very topic back into our view. Since the Declaration of Sentiments in Seneca Fall, New York in 1848…women have \ placed major cracks in the glass ceiling by gaining rights ranging from the right to vote, advancing women’s health issues/rights, and making gains as comprising a large portion of an educated society and workforce. Most “modern” women, can’t imagine a time that we couldn’t vote, work outside the home, attend college, or even not be able to have a credit card in your wallet without your husband’s name on it (hold the phone Dave Ramsey lovers, I am not endorsing credit cards-just say’n the financial world hasn’t always accepted women as responsible). Great gains have been made ladies and gentlemen! And these gains took bold women and bold men to change and not accept the status quo. However, I beg that for the past few decades, women have been enjoying the fruits of our forefathers foremothers. It is time to reenergize and move the conversation of equal rights to the 21st Century; not in an attempt to take over the male race, but in an effort to create equality for men, women, and families. Opportunities have increased for many minority demographics, but an increase in opportunities does not necessarily yield equality. Enjoy the rights gained, but let’s revive efforts to focus on continuing to build equality. Examples might include laws that don’t penalize single or double income families. Laws that promote men enjoying such things as maternity/adoption leave. Speaking of maternity leave, the USA really can learn some lessons from our European friends in this area. Equalizing women’s pay. It is true that women earn 71-81 cents for every dollar a man earns. The figure varies by state and report, but I did the math for my profession and it was dead on. Census statistics from 2012 estimated that based on the median earnings of all full-time, year-round workers that men’s earning in 2011 were $48,202 and women’s were $37,118. This equates to a difference of $11,084 per year. Add this figure up over a lifetime…women you have earned $275,000 less than your male colleague. I’m no mathematician, as my transcript will suggest but regardless if your salary is the median, above the median, or below the median surely we can agree that a difference in pay adds up over a lifetime. I can certainly think of ways to share, spend, and invest $275,000!
  3. Women, the work starts with us! How you might ask? 1. Removing the barriers we create for each other through pettiness, stereotypes, and judgments. 2. Support and advocate for other women living a fulfilled life. 3. Have the tough conversations about equality and live YOUR fulfilled life! 4. Use the angst in your gut to make a change for the better.
    Being bold often requires hard choices. If you look throughout history, it is the bold choices both women and men have made that have provided courage to others to break free from the chains of limiting belief patterns, society stereotypes, and religious conditioning that often times keep individuals suppressed and from living the fulfilled life they were designed to live.

Today my spoon is full of “crazy” ideas of making the world a better place for all. Lets work on continuing to put the equal in equality. Anyone up for a 21st bra burning?

 

Thoughts for my Daughter-in-Law on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is here. Love is in the air and candy hearts and chocolates are making their way to our hips. I have never been a lover of Valentines. Don’t get me wrong, I always love a surprise from my love. I personally think Valentine’s just has a forced feeling of “love” – too commercialized. So for Valentine’s my husband and I try to bring our A game all year…not just on February 14th.One of my fondest Valentine’s memories is of a friend and I sending each other bouquets of flowers from a secret lover while we were in high school. Who could it be? Geez, I don’t know! It was for a good laugh and we had fun with the “mystery.”This Valentine’s Day is different. I have been doing a lot of thinking and daydreaming about love. Not in my life, but that of my son’s life. I know he is only two, but life slapped me in my face a few weeks ago when his teachers jokingly shared with me that he is a little “gentleman” to a girl in his class. My first thought, well at least he is exhibiting traits of chivalry, and not pimp-like at a young age. That’s positive, right?  I know this little gal is just two, but that little hoochie (I promise I am not jealous) is already stealing my son’s heart. After naptime, he apparently helps her off her mat and has a date with her during lunch and snack each day. When I told my husband he said, we need to separate their mats! Really-they are two, we are maybe over reacting. Adding insult to injury, my son received his first birthday party invite last week-from a GIRL; who by the way is an older woman-she will be three! This innocent crush on his girl buddy and the party invite from a cougar has me thinking that in a blink of an eye I will be a mother-in-law. That is the worst label ever-so many stereotypes go with that term.

My husband’s mother, made it very clear that she was “losing” a son when my  husband I dated and later married. Since she doesn’t have access to my blog, I won’t take any dirty punches. However, there is nothing I hate more than the shallow thought of “a son is a son until he takes a wife.” Really, I have to start now to plot how I will be the best mother-in-law that ever existed and defy the horrible stereotypes.  How do I turn this ship around now so that I don’t “lose” a son, but instead gain a daughter?  I know there will be Valentines Days to come where my son will be touting a teddy bear to school for his love or sending roses to some vixen that isn’t the marrying type. However, I am skipping over those brief moments in time and going straight for the kill-the ONE that will last- YOU, my daughter-in-law. I have decided to start thinking and planning for our relationship now, so I penned this open letter to YOU my dearest daughter-in-law (who is not taking MY son).

Dearest Beautiful, Smart, Perfect Daughter-in-Law:

I know you are perfect because my son has good taste thanks to my positive influence on his life and let’s face it-his mother is nearly perfect. Now that we share the same last name, I would like to say “welcome” to our family! Please know I don’t view you as a thief in the night who stole my son. Actually, the joke is on you-your stuck with me, my husband, and our crazy family.  So I beg of you, just go ahead and embrace us-there are many fun times ahead. Drop the mother-in-law stereotype. You will find me likeable. Honestly, you have fallen in love with my life’s work, so I sincerely accept your thanks for molding a young man into a perfect mate. I started working on your behalf before we ever knew each other. That is how great of a mother-in-law I am! If you think about it, we have a lot in common since we both love the same man. I fell in love with him the first second I gazed into his big brown eyes right after he took his first breath. And you…fell for those same eyes yourself!

The good news is I will not ask you to wear my wedding dress. I have already donated it to a good cause and it is long gone. So, find one of your own that fits you and your dreams. I won’t upstage you on your wedding day, but know I will look damn good when I am lighting the candle that forever unifies us as one big, happy family. I won’t judge the cleanliness of your house or the gourmet appeal of your food. If you spend your life cleaning and picking up after my son and your offspring-it is no one’s fault but your own because I taught him differently.  I won’t harass you about how you parent. I won’t harass you about your sense of style (well, that might happen if you are embarrassing the family name). However, I will nag you to enjoy the ride of a perfectly imperfect life and will be there to support your journey.

I assume you picked my amazing son because he is gorgeous (I mean he should have been a model, I know), he is intelligent, a good conversationalist and listener, he is open-minded, loves adventures, has a good sense of humor, and is practically perfect. Or maybe you picked him just because I came with him. Let me tell you, honey, this level of perfection you fell in love with didn’t happen overnight. His father and I have been training him for years to not be a narcissistic narrow-minded idiot who cannot function independently.

Right now you may not even be born yet or you may be playing with Dora the Explorer stuff and obsessed with everything pink. However, I am working for your future happiness now, and he is only two! Let me give you a few examples.

  • You will enjoy not falling into the toilet seat in the middle of the night. Putting the lid down has been incorporated into potty training at our house.
  • You will not have to clean up after him. Thanks to me, he puts his own stuff up and doesn’t have crap scattered everywhere. He knows how to put his plate and sippy cup (hopefully, he has progressed to an adult cup) in the dishwasher. Well, thanks to my OCD tendencies, we “clean-up” every night. I am sorry if you have to sing songs about how fun cleanup time is while he does his chores.
  • You will enjoy dinner on the table when you get home. He helps me cook. He is an excellent stirrer of all ingredients. I will incorporate moving those ingredients into a pan in his “oven and stove 101” training when he is older.
  • You will enjoy that he can balance respecting an independent woman and chivalry. Well, he learned that one mostly from his dad. He will always kiss you before he leaves and before bedtime. He has spent his years watching his mommy love her family and balance a career. He has seen days where I was superwoman and days were I was a failure-he knows it’s hard.
  • You will notice he has good manners because he understands the importance of please and thank you. 
  • You will like how he is a good communicator and has lots to talk about. Well, his father and I have been cultivating an adventerous spirit by toting him around the world and to museums before he could talk. I have spent countless hours talking about and explaining life to him.
  • You will like it that he is a good listener. Like my husband, he has heard my “hearing vs listening” lecture many times (I’m a communication major). You don’t listen to mommy when you are watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; that is “hearing” not “listening”. The TV goes off until you can be a good listener. You’re welcome that you won’t be ignored every time a sporting event is on TV.
  • You will like that he doesn’t think your one of the boys and enjoys hearing his bodily functions like burps and “toots” as he now calls them. It might be fun with Dad, but he better keep the noises to himself around the ladies.

Hopefully, these actions which I have already starting working on will show you that from the beginning, you and I have been on the same team-we are not each other’s competition or enemies. I don’t want to be your BFF, just your MILF (for those of you with your minds in the gutter-that means “mother-in-law friend”). I know I will be replaced as his truest love and that is okay. I can only hope you picked him because of the qualities I have worked so hard to instill in him…and that maybe he picked you because we are alike. Hey, they say you marry your mother-which scares the hell out of me! I can’t promise I won’t be annoying or I won’t be too involved, but I promise it will all come from love. Let’s face it, you love my baby, I must have done something right.

Sincerely,

Your mommy-in-law

Today my spoon is full of chocolate Valentine’s Day Candy as I sulk at not always being my son’s Valentine.

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!

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.

 

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.

Shout Out About Colic

I recently received a phone call from a friend who was calling on behalf of their family member who has a newborn with colic. Why did they call me you might ask? Well, my bundle of love screamed at us for four months straight…so I have earned my colic survivor purple heart. Most might think, seriously, how much can a baby cry or say it’s all in how you handle it. And to you I say….well, I can’t say what I would like to say to you. But the answer is a baby can cry for 12+ hours a day! If you have never experienced it, take the worst moment you have had with a crying baby and multiply it by 1000000000000000 x nearly 120 days. I haven’t blogged about this topic, because I seriously think I might have some lingering post traumatic stress from this experience. A colicky baby could be used by the government in lieu of water-boarding. I recently showed my toddler a video of him screaming his head off when he was about 6 weeks old. He said “mad baby.” Yes dear, you were the mad baby. So badly mad, that our cat lived in the basement for four months. I was so jealous of her being able to escape.

So this blog post is for any new momma dealing with a colicky baby and for anyone else who might need a good laugh at my expense. Colic entered our house like a thief in the night about two weeks after we got home from the hospital with our 9.5 pound buddle of cuteness. Conveniently, my husband and daunting family members had all gone back to work at this point. So there I was with my beautiful, screaming demon and the cat, stuck in the house in the middle of July; which is pretty hot in Kentucky. And that is when I begin asking myself; did I really mean to take 3 months maternity leave, maybe the standard 6 weeks would suffice?

As a new mother your first instinct is to assume there must be something wrong…so there ensued our weekly visit to our jovial, pediatrician who shoots straight from the hip. Although it was the first week of August 2010, I remember his words like it was yesterday, “it’s probably colic, he will be a new baby by Thanksgiving.” What?? Thanksgiving is like four months away. I stared calculating the months, weeks, and hours until turkey day. And, there is no remedy? We don’t know what causes this? Why have mothers who have experienced colic around the globe not banded together to find a cure? So off I went with my screaming demon to survive the next four months. I have very few pictures documenting his first weeks, mainly because he was screaming and glowing with a bright red face the entire time.

The Sweet Baby I Brought Home (Pic By JoAnne Fowler)

Once you figure out there is nothing wrong with him, you assume there is something wrong with you. For example, how did I jump through all the hoops of a Ph.D., yet can’t handle a screaming baby? Throw in the changing hormones that are swiftly kicking you throughout the day with the questions of…maybe I shouldn’t have been a mom starts ringing in your brain? Maybe he hates me? Did the hospital give us the wrong baby?

Looking back there are some funny moments along the four month journey.

  • My dad would spend his days off with us trying to keep me sane. He spent one afternoon wheeling my son back and forth in his bassinet with wheels because when we stopped moving he would start crying again. That bassinet acquired some mileage around our house that day.
  • I would load my baby up in a stroller and go on walks with my iPod. He screamed while I blissfully listened to my favorite tunes and those that passed us by glared with a judging look for letting a baby scream like that.
  • Upon returning home from work one day (really, I am surprised he kept coming home), my husband said, “just get out of the house and do something for yourself. I got this.” I told him if I walked out the door, it was very likely I was never coming back. So I stayed…and I am grateful I did.
  • My mother would sing religious songs to my baby and rock him. Her music either soothed him or startled him enough that he was quite for a bit. My dad would fall asleep like a baby listening to her, long before the baby ever did.
  • One day, I didn’t get a bath until after my husband got home from work (what am I saying, heck most days I didn’t). He had some work due for his graduate program, so I decided to jump in the shower and afterwards take our screaming child for a drive. His screaming got so bad, I ended up leaving the house with wet hair, no shoes, and no bra (if that picture doesn’t put the stereotypical image of Kentucky in your head, I don’t know what will!). I just wanted the crying to stop, it was worth the sacrifices of clothes and looks. Since I also hadn’t eaten all day, I thought I would drive one hour round trip to the closest McDonalds for some fries. He would sleep and I would drive. Who would see me, right? On my way to McDonalds, I came upon my dad in a car wreck. He had hit a giant cow on the road. You can’t make this stuff up! Nothing like talking to a police officer, waiting for a wrecker, and helping your dad (who was thankfully unharmed) while barefoot, braless, wet dripping hair and wearing a Metallica t-shirt all while your newborn screams in the car. No peace and quiet that night. And no French fries.
  • My aunt’s frantic search for the perfect formula brings a smile to my face. She found one that we called liquid gold, it was pricey but it helped. She brought various brands by our house and we would compare ingredients and call the hotline on the can looking for answers. I was hoping the 1-800 number directly led to God.
  • My poor sister-in-law was six months pregnant during this time and I think this whole ordeal caused her to live in fear of meeting her baby. Luckily, she had a nice quite one!

When a mother who believes her baby has colic asks me what “did you do”, I always hate to answer. Honestly, I want to start crying, curl up a fetal position, and rock back and forth while singing a mixed genre of Amazing Grace, Baby’s Got Back, and Friends in Low Places. The truth is, we did everything and nothing worked. Sure some wives tales or concoction bought us few minutes, but there is no fix all answer. Slowly, week by week, the crying doesn’t last as long, and then around four months it just disappears.

So what did I try? Let’s see… sitting my child by a running facet, sitting my child on the dryer (it was so tempting to put him in on the delicate cycle), singing, dancing, watching TV, playing EVERY genre of music, making up our own songs, long rides in the car, long walks, bouncing up and down, massage, gripe water, herbal remedies, sugar water, acid reflux medicine, sitting outside, swaddling in warm blankets, strapping and wrapping the kid on me in various contraptions, various formulas, various bottle styles, pacifiers, ear plugs, calming lotion, prayers, crying (me, not the baby), wine (again, me, not the baby), and on and on.

Honestly, the two best things that worked were (1) giving him baths-he loved bath time and (2) keeping socks on his feet (that was advice from my grandmother). In reality, the only thing that TRULY works is taking care of yourself. That requires taking time to yourself, making time as a couple to escape, creating a routine that works for you, trusting and allowing others to help. I can’t say I did all of these things, but hindsight is 20/20.

So our household did survive colic. So did our marriage. So did my cat-luckily they have nine lives. Our hearing was probably damaged, but prepared us well for the other joys of parenting such as ear infections and terrible twos. And every year when the leaves start changing colors and falling off the tree and people start talking about getting their families together for turkey time, I count my blessings that colic is over!
Today my spoon is full of bitter sweet memories of my newborn that I hope will help another parent.

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!

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?

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”.

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.

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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