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Check Yo Self…..oh wait–

Today I had to text my college sophomore and ask her about this phrase I’ve seen floating around in social media–

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because those words kept going through my head.

Check yo self.

And I so wanted to say them today.

To someone else.

Ahem.

That’s right.  The day after I asked us all to stop judging and walk with folks in their messes.

I wanted to say this to folks who had their children in tow and maybe weren’t paying close enough attention to what their children were up to.  They were engaged in conversation and their littles were wandering a bit.  Nothing bad happened, no one came close to getting hurt, and yet I wanted to say this to them–“Check yo self and yo children too.”

Okay, pot–seen the kettle lately?

Sigh.

I’ve been there too.  I have been that Mama so needing adult conversation that I might not have been as focused as I should on my littles or their needs or behavior.  I might have been there as recently as today, but I’m not saying for sure.  Ahem.

This blog post was going to go in a whole ‘nother direction tonight, but when I saw my own words from last night-walk with each other with our messiness intertwined–it stopped my fingers and the direction of my thoughts cold.  I guess that includes our children and their messes too, huh?

Oh me.  I almost fell off the non-judgmental wagon there.

That was a close one.

I don’t get to pick and choose when living like that works for me.  It’s an “all in” kind of thing.

It’s a lot easier to say those words “check yo self” to someone across a crowded room than it is to the person in the mirror, the one who finds it so easy to slip back in her old ways, isn’t it?

Last night I mentioned that this parenting thing isn’t easy.

Let me add one more thing that’s not easy.

This living life.  Being intentional.  With kindness and grace.  Not.  Easy.

And I know I am having growing pains when I catch myself from falling back into the depths of holier than thou.  Nobody knows another’s story well enough to judge.  When I act like I do, I am opening the door for folks to do the same with me and my story.

And that has never felt too good, I’m not gonna lie.

So yes.  Tonight instead of telling y’all all about how these folks behaved and how they could have behaved better, I’m going to shrug and say, I don’t know.  It could have been way worse, and I have no idea why it was the way it was.  Me and mine did the best we knew how to do and that’s all I can be responsible for.  The only one I can really say “Check yo self” to is that chick in the mirror who finds it really hard to walk this high road of giving grace.  I’d much rather hightail it through the woods and find a shortcut.  The high road is hard.

But the scenery…..and the company–it’s gonna be worth it, right?

Off to check myself, and put this girl to bed.  About faces in attitudes can be exhausting.

Love and grace to all.

We Are All Beautiful Messes

My friend’s husband was out of town last week.  She missed him and commented genuinely that she didn’t know how single parents do it.

I thought about that for a few days, and I guess my answer would be–the same way folks who co-parent do.

The best they can with what they have at the time.

Which can look as different as the one or the two who are parenting at any given time.

I’ve been a single parent.  First, I guess some would say, by my own choice.  Only it wasn’t my choices that led me to that decision.

I had great supports.  My parents.  Family.  Friends.  Folks who were a part of my village in helping love on my baby girl.  I give thanks everyday for each one of them and the role they played in who she has become and in me keeping my sanity.  Well, most of it anyway.

The second time I became a single parent, it was situational and temporary.  Sixty-two days, ninety-five days, one hundred thirty days, and roughly ten months that one time–when the Fella deployed.  He was as much a part of things as he could be from his place in the Sandbox, but for the daytodailies it was all on me.  And my village.

This parenting thing, this thing I love so much, it isn’t easy.  Ever.  With a partner or without. I’ve walked both paths.  It’s all hard.  But it’s harder, just like everything else, when you’re discriminated against.

Oh, not the second time.  The second time folks were all willing to pitch in and thank me for my service.  (Umm, you’re welcome?  I’m just making sure everyone’s fed and the house doesn’t burn down, and occasionally I try to talk the Fella into things long distance–like getting a puppy.  I don’t necessarily make it easy for him.  He’s the one sacrificing here, but I do appreciate the support.)

But that first go ’round?  I hit some roadblocks.

The first time I remember was when I was looking for a school for my girl.  We lived in one town and I worked and spent many long days in another.  I wanted her in school where I would be closer.  I remember sitting in the office with the administrator at this one school.  She didn’t know our story at all.  But in one swift statement, she alienated me and mine and I never set foot there again. “We love to have our families involved.  It’s important to have both parents an integral part of the child’s life.  Studies show that children do better when both are very involved.”

Ahem.  Maybe not so much.

My girl and I were both better off.  Without sharing stories that are better left unshared, let me share this–she saved me because I wanted better for her.  A huge part of who she is today would be so different if we had kept the whole two-parent household thing going on.  So studies be well, you know.  The truth is, in many cases, the child is better off in a one parent household.  But a lot in this world tend to look down on single parent households unfortunately.  Single and stereotyped.  That’s it.

As evidenced by something that we came across in the past three or four years.  It was a school organization.  One of the tenets on their statement that had to be signed for membership gave their definition of family.  I was reading it, and Aub was reading it over my shoulder.  She frowned and shook her head.  “No, Mama.  We are not doing this.  According to this–‘we define family as a married man and woman with offspring’ you and I were never a family when we were on our own.  No, Mama.  Forget it.”

Yes.  Exactly.  We ourselves were plenty.  We were enough.  We were family.  And a much better one than we had been before.  We were safe and we were strong.

I’m sad when things like this happen.  When well-intentioned folks say, “Studies show that children are better off in a home with two parents.”  That takes away something important for all the rest of the families that don’t fit in that box.  Something very important.

Hope.

The truth is no one but me really knows all of my story.  About why I wound up where I did when my daughter was three months shy of three.  About why I am where I am today.  It’s my story.  Even if I told it, no one would be able to fully get it.

And the same is true with each one of us.  I don’t know your story, or yours, or yours.  I wish we could just give each other the space and the grace we all need to be who and where we are without folks judging or making us feel less than.  I just wish…..

I read this news article recently about a program in Canada, the Nanny Angel Network.  Founded by a cancer survivor who saw moms with cancer sitting in treatment rooms with their small children and who thought, this is no place for children, this non-profit provides free childcare for moms with cancer.  Over half of these young women have been single moms.

Oh bless.

I cried when I read about it.  This is it, isn’t it?  Loving without judging.  Taking care of each other.  Having each other’s back.  Being each other’s feather.  Yes.  This.

We need more of this in the world today, y’all.  And less guidelines and studies and belief statements that put folks aside as < less than.

That.  Ain’t.  Right.

Love is.

Bottom line.

Tonight I’m thankful for our village.  The way they allowed their stories to be so intertwined with my very messy one–is there any greater gift we can give someone?  Than not being afraid of their mess?  If there is, I don’t know it.

I give thanks for women like Audrey Guth, the founder of the Nanny Angel Network, who see a need and let their heart and mind figure out what they can do to help.  And then they DO it.  I aspire to be one of those women too.  Sometimes all folks need to shine is a little love from someone else.

Let’s take time to find someone with a messy story and go love on them and let them know it’s okay and #bethefeather, okay?   And if you feel like your story is too messy to be of a help to anyone, look at me right now.  (Well okay, the screen.)

You and your story are not too messy.

Read that again.  I’ll wait.

We are all beautiful messes, and we are meant to journey together.   Don’t let your mess keep you from letting folks in.  Ever.  Life’s too precious and there are people who need to know you and your heart and who need to hear your laughter.  Let it ring.

Love to all.

The Comfort When Things Get Wonky

Today we were on our new “fall” schedule in earnest.  I use the term “fall” loosely because there’s nothing remotely related to fall in August in Georgia. (97 degrees people.) Except for the fact that all of the schools have started.  There is that.

Today was “divide and conquer” day.  As in, if the Fella were deployed, I’d need a clone to get it all done.  But he’s not, so we each took a little and headed out in opposite directions.  We didn’t even all eat together tonight.  That is important to us, so it’s rare for us not to eat supper together.  Very different.  Very hard to wrap my feelings around it.  I like to be where my children are, a spectator and cheerleader when possible and appropriate, a quiet support when not.  So today was…..

different.  Have I mentioned that already?

The Fella and Cooter went to eat (because of our hectic schedules on Monday, it is unofficially our “pickup supper” night).  Then they headed to swim lessons.  Since our Princess made the swim team last month, Cooter wants to try his best and see where he lands (or swims–ha).  He will take classes for this lesson period, and we’ll let him decide if he wants to continue after.  This is all him–we have no pressure or expectations.

After stuffing the Princess with yogurt and having her grab a couple of healthy snacks and water for the car, she and I headed to her dance and gymnastics classes.  She loves it there.  And we love the people there too.  It’s a great experience for her.  I used to wonder at parents who over-scheduled their children.  Now my girl is in dance, gymnastics and swim team.  Ahem.  Be careful what you judge, my friend–yeah, you just never know.  I’m hoping that, since we are at home for school during the days and have little to no other commitments right now, this will be a stress free, really great year for us all.

Check with me again in May.

Yeah.  I’ll let you know.

After her classes were over, we did a run-in at the grocery store–I was out of Granny Smith apples, and that’s my usual bednight snack, so we HAD to stop for those.  Then we did our drive thru routine (minus food for the boys) and headed home.

All out of order.  Feeling rather wonky at how different it all was today–and will be for a few weeks.

And then we got home.  Cooter came and met us and our grocery bags and supper bags and dance bags at the door.

“Hey!”  Oh that toothless grin.  (He lost another yesterday, just came up and handed it to me with a smile and a hug and then ran off to play.  Bless him.) I will never tire of it.  “Guess whose group I’m in at swimming?”

“Who?” our Princess asked quickly, as she dropped her bags.  (I had the apples, thank goodness.)

He told us the name of the male instructor our Princess  had this summer.  He teaches the students at the other end of the pool.  This is a huge deal, y’all.

“What?!” she squealed, hugging her brother.  “That is awesome!”

The light in that boy’s eyes.  Oh me.  He was so happy.  And to have his sister celebrate with him…..good stuff right there.  The best.

As we moved to the kitchen and our Princess pulled out her supper and began eating, Cooter said, “Sooo, how was dance?  Who was there?  Did you have fun?”

I was putting things away in the kitchen with my back to him, but it straight tickled me.  To hear him asking his sister these questions, it was like hearing an echo from the past.  The questions I’ve asked over and over through the years.  They are listening, y’all, never doubt.  More than we know.

After baths and things started settling down, Cooter came in and called his big sister away at college.  He wanted to tell her too.   I could hear her excitement three feet away from the phone.  Sharing the joy.  I love it.

Tonight I am thankful that even when things get all wonky and out of sorts and far away from my comfort zone, there are things that stay the same and remind me how wonderful family is.

hugs and high fives between brothers and sisters

compassionate, tender hearts

voices squealing in excitement

caring questions of genuine interest

giggles and dreams shared

That’s the really good stuff in life.  The stuff that makes heading back out there into the unknown just a little easier.

Here’s to comfort when things get wonky.  May you all have a bit of that right when you need it most.

Love to all.

 

 

Sometimes It Has to Fall Apart Before It Can Get Better

I have a really cool blender.

I have turned in to one of those people who can and will accept cool kitchen gadgets and the like as a gift.  But this one I got for myself when I had to change my eating habits all around to take better care of myself.  It rocks.

Why?

Because it’s easy to clean.  That’s how I rate things in my life these days.  How easy is it to clean?  It’s possible I even like my children more right now because they can bathe themselves.

Okay, just kidding on that one.  Ahem.

So I’ve been enjoying smoothies every other day or so.  I’ve worked on perfecting my recipe.  Those things make me forget I can’t eat just anything I want–one of the reasons I love them so much.

Today I was getting ready to make my smoothie (“it’s smoothie day” are joyful words around here), and I realized I needed to wash the blender first.  The blade comes out of the bowl completely, so those two things were a breeze to clean.  Then I tackled the lid.  It has a lot of grooves and crevices.  I am good about rinsing it right away so it has never been hard to clean.

But today I noticed something didn’t feel right.  I dug around and started trying to get into those crevices.  The more I scrubbed, the ickier it got, until…..this happened.

 

The gasket and lid from my awesome blender.

The gasket and lid from my awesome blender.

The gasket came away from the lid.  I had no idea it would even do that.

And suddenly, the ick and grime were so much easier to see.  And to get rid of.  I had it cleaned and ready to go in no time.

I find this to be true in matters of my heart and soul as well.  I go through my daytodailies thinking I’ve got this.  I’m smiling at strangers, I’m kind to animals, I speak softly to children (okay, most of the time), and I try to return library books on time.  I tell the baggers at the grocery store and the clerks at the drive thru I appreciate them and I wave to my neighbors.  I’m doing all right, right?  By the standards of many, it might could even be said, “she’s a good person.”  (There are always some who would argue, and a few have lived or do live in the same house with me.)

But when I get down deep, and I do some real soul searching–something that I try not to let happen much anymore, I realize that I have some ick and gunk in there.  Some attitudes and thoughts and grudges that need to come out.  And unfortunately, like with my blender, something usually has to break before I can get to the really bad stuff and work it out.  I mean, the blender worked fine even with the ick in the lid.  On the outside, I never noticed it.  Same with me–from the outside, it all looks okay.

Tonight at Evening Prayer we talked about some words from the Good Book that talk about just this sort of thing.  The breaking down, clearing away, like with a bunch of trees, leaving only the stump.  But in this story in the book of Isaiah, there is promise and hope–the seed that will later become a shoot that begins a long line leading to Goodness is left in that stump.

A seed of hope.

When the gasket came out, it looked like the blender lid was broken.  As I pondered whether it was or not, I cleaned it anyway.  Carefully and slowly and diligently, not scrubbing all haphazardly as I had been before.  Methodically.  Round and round until I was sure it was clean.  And when it was, it went back together as before, only better.  Cleaner.

It’s the same with me.  There are times I have felt broken.  Overwhelmed by the ick and the chaos.  There have been times I’ve been so wrapped up in what was going on around me, I didn’t realize all the brokenness I had going on inside.  But when I sat down and really listened to my own heart, my thoughts, my soul–I realized it was there.  And it took breaking down to be able to see it, and only then did it become easier to make the changes I needed to.

And then things fit right back together as they did before.  Only better.

Because there was a seed of hope tucked within.

Tonight I give thanks for hope in the brokenness and for friends who walk alongside, helping plant that seed in what is left after the breaking down.  I give thanks for those who listen and those who share and for finding myself today in the ick of the lid of my blender.  Sometimes this living life thing can be just that messy.  And it takes falling apart to get it all cleaned up.

 

Wishing you friends with pockets full of seeds.

Love to all.

 

 

Looking for the Balance

There’s this awesome page I follow on Facebook–A Mighty Girl.   Several times a day they post a story about an amazing female, some from today and some from the past, who has made her own mark in this world.  From athletes to scientists to authors.  I have so enjoyed reading amazing stories and learning about women I have never heard of before.  They share about books that are great for young girls to read that promote strength and wisdom and are about kindness and anti-bullying and all sorts of good things.  I have been so impressed with this page and its website.  I have found wonderful books for us to share and discuss, and I’ve added to our list of “movies to watch after we read the book”–the most recent one starring Emma Watson.  I’m excited about that one.

But here’s where my worries set in.  I’m all for raising my girls to be strong.  To be wise.  And kind.  And to make wise choices.

But–

I have this baby boy.  Who is seven.  And a half.  (He won’t let me forget the half now.)  And he smells nice and he’s funny and I want him to be strong and wise and kind too.  And I really want him to think and make wise choices.

So far I haven’t found a website that is comparable for boys.   I really want one too.  I didn’t realize how much I did until I saw a book shared on the AMG page–something about 20 women who changed the world.  I would love to find role models like that for my little guy Cooter.   (I mean Star Wars and superheroes can only get us so far.)  I searched on-line and found a similar book for boys.  I was thankful, but I still feel that there is a lack of good material out there for my boy.

Is it because we as a society think males don’t need any support or inspiration or role models?

Sigh.

It’s a hard balance to find.  Even in our own home as I try to empower my girls, I worry that I may be emasculating him with the direction some of the conversations go around here.

And bless him.  I want him to have all the best–I want him to grow up to change the world for the better too.  But how can he if he doesn’t have good stories of inspiration like I’m finding for my girls, and if we inadvertently become female-centric in our home?

It’s a hard balance.

Sorry.  It bears repeating.

Tonight I’m thankful for my parents who somehow found that balance–who empowered all of their children–three girls and a baby boy.  So many times lately I’ve wished I could seek their wisdom on this.  I appreciate how they raised us to believe in ourselves and each other.

If anyone has thoughts or wisdom to share on this, please do.  I want all my children to be good human beings and good stewards of all they’ve been given.

Love to all.

About Suckers and Saying Goodbye

Today a friend shared a picture of her precious grandson.  He was flopped over in tears, not wanting to leave his Granny’s house.

Ah, the memories that brought back.

When Aub and the littles were small and they didn’t want to leave Maemae and Cap’s house, it could get quite emotional and a bit dramatic.  They might not want to pick up the toys and put them away because that put them one step closer to leaving, and the fun would be over until next time.

Something that they couldn’t bear thinking about.

And so, cue the pitching of the fit.

I’m sure there was a part of the fits that had to make my parents feel good, but they never missed a beat and let on that they did.  Eventually they came up with the perfect solution.

Treats.

In the beginning it was the DumDum suckers.  They were safe for our food allergy child, and different folks liked different flavors.  Daddy thought the Savannah blueberry ones were interesting.  He knew I loved the coconut and would pull one out for me from time to time.  I think Mama liked the banana split.  (Or was it orange?  I know orange Tootsie pops were her thing.) For a while our Princess loved the mystery flavors and trying to guess what it was.   Then she moved on to the bubblegum or strawberry shortcake because PINK.  Sometimes folks would linger over flavor choices just to spend more time there with Maemae, looking and thinking about it and choosing.

Around Christmas one year I found some of those Bob’s soft peppermint candies and got them for Daddy.  Those went in a separate jar and became another option.  Then at some point Mama bought those caramel creams and put them on a pretty cake plate that sat empty much of the time.  Another option.

It’s good to have choices.  And in this case, it was win win win.  And it got folks out the door with smiles on their faces.  I even saw one or two of the lovely women who took such good care of Daddy when he was sick picking up one or two for the road.

It just worked like that.

I was thinking about that today, and about how I want to start that tradition back here at our house.  I even have the jar and the cake plate tucked away for just that.

Because you know, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down–or get the little ones out the door–whatever works, my friends.  Whatever it takes.

Tonight I’m thankful for memories of my crew huddled with Maemae around the candy dish, contemplating this very serious choice at the end of each visit.  I hope they will remember those times and know they were loved so very much.

Love to all.

Cooter, Class Clown and Caregiver

We have this “thing” in our family.  Whenever there’s a family gathering, a hootenanny if you will, inevitably there is someone with the sniffles.  Or sneezes.  Or something.  As we gather together all of us like this only twice a year, no one wants to miss out.  But neither do any of us want to expose anyone else to something contagious.  It got to be a running joke several years back, when someone, probably one of mine, was in attendance with nose issues and the parent (probably me) said, “Oh, it’s okay, she’s not contagious, it’s just allergies.”

And now it gets said by someone at just about every gathering.  Not contagious.  It’s allergies.  Yep.

We do this around here too.  Oh you’ll be all right, it’s just allergies.

Are you feeling puny?  It’s okay, don’t worry, it’s probably just allergies.

Yeah.  Like that.

The first indication I had that maybe what I’ve had going on the last day or so isn’t allergies was this afternoon.  I noticed I felt a little cool.  Chilled might be stretching it, but then again, maybe not.

This is August.  In Georgia.  In my house.  Where I’m a cheapskate with the air until it gets really warm in the house.

So yeah, cool? Chilled?  Something MIGHT be wrong with that picture.

I finally decided to take my temperature.  Cooter noticed me using the thermometer on myself, something that very rarely happens around here.  Thinking back, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to do that.

“Mama, are you sick?”

I checked the numbers after it beeped.  Hmmm.  Low grade.

This ain’t just allergies, y’all.

“Well, a little bit, buddy.  But it’s okay.”

His eyes got a little wider, and I could tell his wheels were turning.  My Fella and our Princess were at swim practice (yes, she’s loving it, thank you for asking), so it was just the two of us and Miss Sophie.  I turned off supper cooking on the stove.

“C’mon buddy, let’s take Sophie for her walk.”

He looked at me with concern.  “But Mama, you are sick, you can’t go out for a walk.”

I explained that Sophie needed to go out, and it was up to us to take her.

Cooter grabbed the leash and said, “I’ll walk her.”

Surprised, I said, wondering just how far he was willing to go with this, “Well, grab a bag, bud.  For…..you know.”

I turned to get my shoes and they were gone.  I wasn’t sure he’d remembered a bag, so I tucked one in my back pocket just in case.  I didn’t want him to think I didn’t have faith in him, but I also did NOT want to be without a bag.  Ahem.

I headed outside and didn’t see them.  Had I locked them in the house?

Then I heard him.  “Mama!”  He was waving his precious wave, the one that no words can truly do justice to in describing.  He and Sophie were up ahead on the sidewalk.

I walked a little faster.  “Well, c’mon Mama.  We’re ready.”

We made the walk around the neighborhood safe and sound and mission accomplished.  Twice.  Turns out it was fortuitous that I carried a second bag.  Cooter even tried to pick up what Miss Sophie left, but bless him.  His gag reflex is very, very strong.  The sight of him bending over with that bag, trying– it melts my heart.  He really was trying to take care of his Mama.

It gives me hope.  This is the same little guy who made me crazy today with his lack of focus on his lessons.  And the same one who, a couple of days ago, when I gave him some review addition and subtraction problems, answered “6-3″ with “6.”

“Cooter, listen. If you have six cookies, and you eat three, you are not going to have six cookies left.”

He got his trademark look in his eyes.  “I will if I go and get some more.”  He cocked his head at me and grinned. “And I would.”

That’s how 6-3=6 in Cooter math, y’all.

And today that little goof tried to take care of me.  When he knew I could use it.

For the love.

I love that little booger.  And it’s not just because he smells nice.  Which he does.  And he beams sheepishly whenever I say something about someone smelling good.  Oh yeah, we’ve entered the next phase of boyhood.  I’ll know I’m in real trouble when he starts combing his hair.

My Joyfulfriend and I used to talk about our odds of being cared for by one of our children when we’re old.  This week I’ve had a glimpse of hope that maybe I’ve got another potential option–someone who will care for me and keep me laughing at the same time.

And that’ll do for a Thursday.

Me and my allergies cold are headed to bed.  Hope y’all have someone to keep you entertained and comforted too.

Love to all.

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