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.

Celebrating a decade…what 10 years can bring to a marriage!

This week marked mine and my husband’s ten year anniversary. A decade. Wow. Some days life (not our marriage) has seemed like 100 years. Other days those 10 years seem like a blink in time. I remember when we were newlyweds; that our 10th year was supposed to be the year that we adventured to Bora Bora. Our plan didn’t quite pan out, but that dream is still in the making. As a new bride, I also remember asking my husband what he thought about changing our wedding bands to something different every ten years. This really wasn’t a ploy to get a bigger diamond. I thought it sounded fun. After all, as life happens, who you are and what your marriage is changes over time-so why can’t your ring change too? However, my hubby is too sentimental for wedding ring changes. He probably still has anxiety over the fact that I am on wedding ring number two due to a portion of my diamonds (who were my mother’s) falling out of my original wedding ring within the first year of our marriage. Oops.

Over dinner, my husband and I were discussing what the next ten years will look like. Before I could even get a mental picture he proceeds to say “Well, some people in our lives will probably be dead, we will have a tweenager, and we will be wrinkled. “ Wow, thanks for the optimistic outlook on the next decade. Luckily, that conversation was derailed by our waitress. Later on I was thinking about the past ten years and what all those years encompassed. Honestly, when I was a new bride I don’t really remember intentionally planning much of the first 10 years of our marriage. Typically, I am a planner, but considering the day after we married, my husband left for Iraq, I wasn’t for sure what plans to make. Looking back, I think I was afraid if I made too many plans, my heart would never recover if he didn’t come home alive and well to fulfill them. So started our marriages and we have been haphazardly landing in the right places ever since.

According to an online date calculator, we have been married for 521 weeks, or 3,653 days or 87,672 hours or 5,260,320 minutes or 315,619,200 seconds. I am sure my husband has been keeping track of the seconds (insert sarcasm)! So what has this time brought about? Well, here is a snapshot.

We been married twice (but not divorced; see previous posts for explanation). We survived my husband being deployed to Iraq for nine months. He survived me teaching in the Czech Republic for six weeks. We have moved three times. We have moved family and friends a lot more than three times. We have remodeled a home and built a home. We demolished a home; neither of which we remodeled or built. We have had nine jobs or positions between the two of us. I have completed a Ph.D. (really, my husband is to thank for me passing statistics). My husband has completed a MBA (really, he can thank me for editing his papers to perfection). He has fixed a lot of things I have broken and read the directions when I did not. I try to smile and contain the steam from rolling out of my ears when he works on one of our home projects…slow but also perfect. We canvased my small home town to rally votes when I ran for office three different terms (which I won). We have traveled A LOT-some for work but most for pleasure. We have visited (best I can count) 16 states in the USA and traveled to 9 countries together in the name of fun and adventure. When we were in Italy and I bought gelato and like a dumb tourist realized I was taken advantage of because it costs like $20, you still shared it with me (and remind me about it, but it was darn good). He watched me puke my guts out for 10 days on a cruise and kept me from jumping overboard. He has sprayed medicine on my arse when some fat snorkeler pushed me into poisonous coral in the Bahamas. We have enjoyed numerous concerts and plays. He wasn’t embarrassed when I was rockin out at a Bon Jovi concert when I was 8 months pregnant (coincidence my son loves music-probably not). He flew us to see U2 when in fact, he really doesn’t like them, but I do (I think Kiss made up for that). I dragged him to a Drag Show in Chicago for his 30th birthday and he still loved me (best martinis and singing EVER). We made wine together. One batch could possibly fuel a car or be used to clean wounds; and a few batches that we made were near perfection. He graciously pretends to care about my fashion shows after I go shopping and want to show him the bargains I found. We had a fish-and I am pretty sure he is the one that killed it. We cried when we had a miscarriage and then cried more when we rented Marley & Me to watch on the same freaking day. I thought it was going be a fun movie about a dog. I didn’t realize the damn dog died. Bad choice on a bad day. We made the cutest kid EVER together. When he joined our house he yelled at us the first year of his life due to colic, ear infections, and teething. Luckily, those days passed. He is the perfect, clever, witty mixture of us. My man has back aches thanks to bouncing around a metal truck while in Iraq; I have had two knee surgeries that are probably a result of me just being a total klutz. We both have fixed our eyes with Lasik surgery (you were scared, so I went first). We survived over a week without electricity during an ice storm that was declared a national disaster… until I talked you into driving 1.5 hours to a hotel so I could dry my hair and sleep in a warm bed. We have made new friends. We have lost loves ones. We have had a few cars. We lost our dear house cat a time or two (but she is still alive and well). I have had long hair and short hair. He has lost a few hairs. But neither of us are gray! We have gotten older. We have had a few days when we wanted to kill each other (I am sorry for scooping out a large portion of butter out of the container while I was cooking dinner and throwing it at his face that one time when I was mad…but it was pretty funny). We have cried a little. We have been sick a few days but mostly have been blessed with great health. We have laughed, loved, and lived the last decade. Our marriage has been an adventure of love, trust, partnership, tolerance, humor, tenacity all rolled up into one.

Whew…I know I left something out, but as you can see the last decade has been an adventure. I can’t wait until I can reflect on the next decade. I don’t know what it will bring, but I promise to have my eyes, ears, mind, and heart open for the moment and savor each spoonful as it comes. I share this not because I want you to see what we have done, but maybe to reflect on what your next decade will bring. Are your eyes, ears, mind, and heart ready for the adventure? I suggest not planning it, but to buckle up, put the top back, and enjoy the ride.

Today my spoonful is full of smiles as Mrs. E-E.

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

Happy New Hallothanksmas Christgivingween Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Hello… a Call from Communication Memory Lane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today my spoon is full of cool communication memories.

Savor Every Spoonful…Life is Precious

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

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

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

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

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

Maw: A heap of wisdom and a side of macaroni

Holding hands her last week

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

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

Maw meets Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Nancy Merle

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

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

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

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

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

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