Earlier this month we enjoyed the Georgia National Fair and all of its splendor. Rides, exhibits, music, food, friends, fun–every bit of it. During one of our visits (yep, we went more than once this year–ALL the fun, y’all), we were wandering through the commercial exhibit hall. Cooter stopped to look at the piano in one of the booths.
As he looked at the keys, searching for middle C, the owner came up and, noticing Cooter’s baseball cap, spoke to him. “Hey, are you a Clemson fan?” Then he looked up at me, “Are you a Clemson fan?”
I shrugged and said, “I’m not, not really,” and smiled back. The good-natured salesman laughed and said, “Then why on earth would you let him wear that hat?”
I laughed. “That’s just how we roll.”
The truth is that Cooter found the hat at the GW Boutique, and he really liked it. His friend is a Clemson fan, so he cheers the team along with his friend. Am I a Clemson fan? Is the Fella? Is anyone else in our house? Not really. But it doesn’t keep us from loving Cooter in his Clemson fan-dom. He’s becoming his own person. He IS his own person. He is learning and living out his story, and he’s forming his own opinions about sports teams and what books are his favorites to read (biographies and history and oh, Captain Underpants) and what matters most to him. We’ve been studying the beginning of this country and how the government was formed, and so he’s even been venturing into forming his own political beliefs.
On all of these things–sports teams, books, what matters most, and even political beliefs–there are things we have in common, things we believe the exact same about (Captain Underpants not being one of them, you understand), and there are things we absolutely disagree on.
And yet, just this morning, that little imp told me I was his favorite Mama. And while, I’m the only nominee in this category–it’s not an award he had to give. So, despite our lack of commonality on several things (the need for him to do his science lesson being a major one), he loves me.
And I adore him right back.
Perhaps what I should have told the piano man back at the Fair is, that in this family, it’s okay to like and think and believe different things. That’s why it’s okay that my oldest loves music I don’t really care for, that my middle child loves UGA (though I’m a Tech Fan), and that my baby boy is a huge fan of all things football and enjoys books I am not really interested in.
And it really is all okay.
Because at the end of the day, we are all right here together. Living in our own little corner of this great big world. Growing and learning and sometimes changing our thoughts and beliefs and preferences as life takes us on down the road. And whatever it takes for us to live and love together, that’s what counts the most. Being okay with our differences and not only allowing but encouraging each other to have them–even if it’s cheering for a team I could care less about–that’s what keeps us going. That’s what matters most. In our house, our neighborhood, our town, our country, our world. For all of us.
I hope you get to wear the hat you want. Because it’s your head, your journey, your story. And I hope folks love you just the same.
When Aub turned 3, I planned, with the help of my Joyful friend, a party with the theme of “Pink Pigs, Puppets, and Pizza.” (I do love alliteration!) It was a lot of fun, as all of the parties were back then, and I even had her third birthday picture made in her favorite pink nightgown with all of her pink pigs sitting beside her. I love that picture.
Tomorrow my girl turns 21.
I don’t know how that happened. Cliche’ but true. The days were long and the years were short.
And now–here we are. 21.
Tonight I mentioned to my older friend who is the epitome of wisdom, love, grace, and spryness that I guessed I was done. Twenty-one equals grown, right?
I was walking behind her, and saw her shoulders shake with her mirth before I heard her laughter. “Oh me…..okay. Sure. We’ll let you think that for now.”
I know better. I really do.
My girl wanted a very laid back birthday this year. I was good with that. It seems like the world right now is a cyclone of chaos and to do’s and needs and what not, so a chance to sit. And be. And not much else. SURE. YES. The gift that keeps on giving.
We gathered in the backyard with the fire going (I’m getting pretty good at starting them now), and I set out the hot dogs and fixin’s along with the sticks for roasting. I had a few decorations I’d put together for the day with a small sign with the theme for her 21st birthday “party.”
I returned to alliteration eighteen years later. (I was in a play in Junior High with Beta Club, and my one line that I still remember was “I just love alliteration.” I looked up what that was, and you know what? Turns out I do. To this day.) Only the letter has changed. This year’s theme?
Mason Jars, Mermaids, Makeup, and Monograms.
My baby girl who isn’t a baby anymore loves most things Southern. Traditions, cornbread, grits, pearls, and Mason Jars for anything from drinking out of them to storing things. I tried a Pinterest project (ha–close to a fail, I’d say, but since I learned from it, we’re moving it to the WIN column) and “frosted” some jars with mermaids inside. If you want to know more, let me know. I’ll do my best to tell you the right way to do it, which the folks on Pinterest most definitely did NOT do. As for the mermaids, a dear friend of mine and I talk about them as a symbol of not only adapting but transforming into something beautiful wherever you are. Aub is about to enter a whole new way of life, with this “official” adulthood thing. I don’t want her to feel like she’s underwater…..I want her to grow a tail and swim–take off and make the new way of life her own. As for the makeup, she loves it. Since she’s 21 and not 11 anymore, I’m okay with that. She is beautiful inside and out, makeup or no, and as long as she remembers that, I don’t have a problem with her enjoying the world of makeup. (I do have a problem with the folks who didn’t recognize that her cake, designed and made by her loving Mama, was a compact and NOT a toilet. We won’t even go there, folks. I’m about to get sappy, and I can’t if I revisit my emotions attached to that experience.) Monograms needs no explanation–I’ve written about that before. She loves ALL THE THINGS monogrammed. Even her cookies. Today we were talking about her monogram, and she said, “I do love it. It’s so asymmetrical.” You’re welcome, boo. Of course I thought about that when naming you. Ahem.
Tonight as I remember where I was exactly this moment 21 years ago (calling my parents, his parents, my dear friend, heading to the hospital), I am thinking about that letter M and all of the other things it could have stood for–Mercer (where she might maybe perhaps go to grad school), Mouse (her nickname before she was born), Mama (who loves her dearly), Mic drop (something she does regularly), Mississippi (because she is a really good speller and knew how to spell it almost as soon she knew her alphabet…..and so many others. But as I sat down by the fire last night, and realized how far she’s come, and yet this is only the beginning, I thought about the things I wish for her in the years to come that start with the M.
*Make time for the things you love. Don’t toss the things you enjoy doing aside permanently for the sake of your career or even another person. If you love it, make time for it.
*”Make hay while the sun shines.” Work hard when the opportunity presents itself. Never go halfway. Give it your all.
*Make a difference. In whatever you do, do it in kindness and with good intent.
*Make someone laugh or smile. At least once a day. And it’s okay if that person is you.
*Make other people feel important. Because they are.
*Meander on the less traveled path. Learn to love the other way around.
*Mix it up. Try new things. Attempt something you never thought possible. Eat a new food. Read a different genre. Take archery lessons.
*Move. Your arms. Legs. Head. Dance. Walk. Run. When you are moving, it’s harder to sit on your pity pot. Trust me, I know this.
*Middle. Sit there every once in a while. Or more often. It offers a different perspective, and different perspectives can be very good to try out for size.
*Master something you’re curious about. Painting. Knitting. Piano. Underwater Basket Weaving. No one can ever take your skills away from you.
*Music. Listen. As much as possible to as many kinds as possible. Music can lift your spirits or rest with them where you are. Never be without music.
*Make. Create. Share.
*Motivation. Seek it. Offer it.
*Move on. Move beyond. Don’t get stuck in that one bad moment. Or bad experience. Or held up by that one person who doesn’t get you and never will. Let it go. (Yeah, I said it–I sang it too.) I feel that it will be okay. It will be okay.
*Muse. Listen to her. Let her guide your thoughts and your words. Write. Please. The world needs your voice.
*Metamorphose. As much as it takes. Change. Adapt. Grow. Never stop growing. Adapting. Becoming.
*Miracle. You are mine. Be good to my treasure. Because I love you.
And I give thanks for you every single day.
May Light shine upon you, today and everyday–chasing the darkness away, so that you can reflect all the good that has gone before you and offer a glimpse of all the good you will bring in the days and years to come.
Something I’ve come to enjoy each day I owe to homeschooling. No, it’s not the audiobooks that we’ve been listening to together lately. (Though they are quite wonderful–who knew that at my age I’d still love being “read” to?) And it’s not that I don’t have to go running out for posterboard or glitter or sticks for the glue gun at the last minute because something IS DUE TOMORROW. (Been there, done that.) Though there is a long list of things I enjoy about homeschooling, this is the one about how I start my day.
I am usually already awake when I hear footsteps coming in my room. The next thing I know there’s fifty-some odd pounds of grins and joy bounding on my bed.
First thing, he comes and sits on the bed with me. Sometimes he tells me about his favorite football teams. Again. Or he shares the best plays of his favorite players. Again. Sometimes he shares about the book he’s been reading or something funny his friend said. But a few days ago, it was none of that.
“Mama. Mama,” he paused, waiting for me to make eye contact. His voice was quite serious as was his gaze. “Mama, I need for you to come fix me breakfast.”
Well, this was new. Or maybe not so much new as a change. He used to ask me to do that, but in the past few months, he’s found his way to getting a bowl and the cereal and the milk and fixing his own breakfast. So, like I said, new. But not.
I knew he had to be hungry because he hadn’t eaten much the night before.
“Okay, buddy. But what’s up? You don’t feel like fixing it yourself this morning?”
“No. It’s not that.” He held his hands out for emphasis. “The milk jug. Is. FULL.”
I looked at him.
“It’s a new jug.” And what he said next nearly floored me. I mean, you know, if I hadn’t been already lying in the bed. “I don’t want to make a mess.”
Wait. Really? He didn’t want to make a mess?
Now that really was new.
He’s nine. And a half tacked on for good measure now. Nine and a half, and he’s finally reached the phase where he thought it through before doing it.
That is pretty exciting to me. And maybe just a little sad–that whole growing up thing, but since I didn’t have to clean up half a jug of milk from the counter, cabinets, and floor, I’m getting over that sad bit fairly quickly.
It occurred to me later in the day, as I was once again marveling at this new development and how proud I was of him asking or help, that this world would be a different place if folks thought things through and asked for help if it seemed like they couldn’t handle it themselves. A really different place.
But that whole asking for help is so hard, isn’t it?
This evening as I thought back over that morning’s conversation and the day’s revelation, Cooter was talking about something he was hoping to do. “I think that will help me a lot because you learn about diffusing bombs.” That caught my attention. “I think that could be quite helpful, because I think I might want to do that one day. Diffuse bombs. Like on a bomb squad.”
Oh me. So maybe he hasn’t learned to think through the consequences in every situation.
As bedtimes were backed up this evening, and the children abandoned the street, and balls and bikes were tossed aside in anticipation of school starting in the morning, all the quiet was way too loud this evening.
It had me remembering another time that the quiet was bothersome. When our Princess was eight days old, it was Thanksgiving Day…..and we were living in Japan. Our little family had been invited to our friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, but the wind was whipping, and the cold was biting. We decided it was best not to take our newborn out in all of that, even briefly, so I sent my Fella and Aub on without us. We both would probably sleep most of the time they were away anyway.
As it turned out, only one of us did.
And it wasn’t me.
So I turned on the TV. We got some channels from the states, so I flipped around and landed on a movie that, to this day, I cannot tell you why I kept it on.
Oh my land, I wasn’t crazy about it when I saw it in the movie theater–why on earth I thought I needed to watch it on Thanksgiving day while my sweet baby slept and the whole rest of the world was celebrating without me and I was miles and miles away from my Mama and Daddy…..well, I have no idea.
And yet I did.
I’m sure I flipped away from it a time or two, but let’s face it–putting on your best shows is not a programmer’s priority on Thanksgiving Day. So Tom Hanks it was.
And then Wilson.
I canNOT bear that scene. Volleyballs in stores send me back to that moment, and I will tear up, no joke. Fortunately, that’s not something you see a lot of at the getting places around here.
This summer it finally hit me why I LOATHED that movie so much.
It’s not because of Tom Hanks either. I LOVE him. #SleeplessinSeattle #YouveGotMail #Big #Splash #andalltheOthers #except Castaway
It occurred to me on one of our OutandAbouts. Sometimes I’ll let the crew watch something while we are traveling in the car. This summer they’ve watched (and I’ve listened) to more than our fair share of “Gilligan’s Island,” including one of the followup movies. (Tina Louise wasn’t in that one–it troubled me to no end, and I was only listening.)
I grew up with Gilligan and crew. I KNOW how deserted island life is supposed to go. I KNOW how much people pack to go on boats even when they’re only going to be gone for three hours. I KNOW how much food is on an island, and I KNOW that others happen upon the “deserted” isle from time to time, so there’s NO WAY AT ALL that someone would need a volleyball for companionship.
And so I’ve decided that’s it. That’s why I cannot tolerate “Castaway” and all of its suggestions to the contrary. I’ve seen Gilligan. It’s ruined me for any other shipwrecked or plane crashes and the like where you wind up on a deserted island type of shows. Once you know the truth, fiction just won’t cut it.
Tonight I’m thankful that my littles love Gilligan as much or more as I ever did. I’m thankful for their giggles and that the sound of their laughter was the soundtrack for this summer. As we stir ourselves in the morning and pull out the sharpened pencils and pristine notebooks and turn the crisp pages of new books, I hope that the spirit of the folks of the S. S. Minnow will prevail–love, friendship, ingenuity, loyalty, and togetherness. And I hope that none of my children ask to play volleyball this year.
A couple of days ago I walked over to my neighbor’s house to share some of my summer abundance with her. After debating whether to knock or ring the doorbell, I decided on the doorbell. I mean, they have one, and so they probably appreciate that it gets used from time to time. (Ours, on the other hand, went kerplunk a couple of years back. Knocking suits us just fine, but mostly because we can’t seem to get the wiring right again.)
After a minute or two, their dog came to the door and pushed the curtain aside with her nose. She stared me down but never barked. I knew they were home, as their younger little was out playing with all the other children. After a couple of more minutes, I sat the fruit down and headed back to my house. About a half hour later my friend came walking down the street, shaking her head embarrassedly and laughing. “Oh dear,” she said. “I’m so sorry. We were eating, and I just knew it was one of the children. Again.”
She didn’t have to say another word. I don’t think there’s a parent on this street who hasn’t ignored the summons to the door at one time or another this summer. Just this evening, we heard a knock and Aub commented, “I’m guessing it’s someone under four feet tall.”
Because it usually is.
And it’s rarely for me. Or Aub. Or the Fella. Our 12 and under residents are quite popular around here.
When the summer vacation for the public schools began, I wondered what this summer would bring. Some of the children go to day camp, but most don’t–so yes, I wondered just how often the door would be knocked on and how often my children would be in and out and all over their friend’s yards playing back and forth. As we still had a few days to finish up our school year, I hoped the knocks wouldn’t be too often those first few days of summer break.
It’s been an interesting summer really. Some days no one knocks until evening. Other days Cooter is out the door by 9 and he and his buddy play for an hour or so before the heat sends them scampering back indoors for a few hours. The heat chases them inside more than they chase each other, playing this game or that–the ones we all played as youngsters or the ones they’ve specially designed for themselves.
It’s been actually quite delightful this summer, really, and I shall miss it.
Tonight was the last night of carefree summer fun. School starts here for our friends on Friday. Yes. July. In camaraderie and for lack of friends to play with once it begins, we too will start our school year then. Tomorrow night will find all the children around here tucked in bed far earlier than they have been all summer, and they will awaken bright and early Friday morning to begin new adventures.
But tonight–tonight all the good intentions of us Mamas putting them to bed a little earlier all week in anticipation of the big day never even entered our minds. The crew played and shouted and chased and hid, and I stood inside my front door, listening with my head bowed, close to weeping. Such a treasured sound. The sound of joy, of being young and carefree, of having friends and energy and good health, and laughter–oh the laughter. My heart was full.
So I went to the garage and pulled out a chair. I plopped it open in the middle of my front yard and set to watching and listening and soaking the last night of summer in–breathing it, savoring it, memorizing its sights and sounds and flavors. I was soon joined by our Princess and two of her friends. My Fella even came out and sat for a bit. It was the best entertainment I’ve had in ages.
And I sat out there with our friends until the stars came out, as we pointed and tried to name them.
It was beautiful.
How is it that summer has flown by so quickly? How is it that I can’t remember a whole lot of what we’ve done this summer–and yet, I’m thankful for that.
This wasn’t the summer of big trips.
It was the summer of little knocks.
And I give thanks for each one–and every heat-filled, sweat-drenched, lemonade drinking moment filled with water balloon fights, front porch performances and conversations, front yard baseball, football, and basketball games. And the smiles. I give thanks for them most of all.
Farewell, summer, and farewell, knocks that had me washing my hands from cooking or stopping whatever else I was doing to come to the door. May there always be a neighborhood of friends to chase and confide in and dream with–and may we always remember this precious summer.
May we always have someone who knocks on our doors, asking if we can play.
But lest you think it’s been a free for all around here–as was hoped for by my crew–let me reassure you. No.
It has not.
I could see the gleam in their eyes. They were hopeful. Then they planned. And tried to manipulate and work the system.
To no avail.
Because I was one step ahead of them, you see. I’ve been at this job for over 20 years. Experience has to count for something.
So I took a cue from something that was being shared and shared again on the social media. Using popsicle sticks to earn rewards.
I sat down with my sticks and sharpies and created one for each task/opportunity and the minutes associated with it.
Because, let’s face it, time with electronic devices trumps money around here. These people love their Minecraft, Madden 13 or 15 or whatever, movies, music, etc etc etc. Oftentimes, I refer to it as the Grumpy Screen, as it seems that staring at it for vast amounts of time makes folks grumpy. Sometimes it’s them because of disagreements (“he took my pickaxe” “she burned my house down” “but I don’t want to play that football game with him” “we’ve already watched that episode–six times”), and sometimes it’s me because I want them off.
Why in the world do we have all these Legos and dolls and cars and whatnot anyway?
So yes, things like unloading the dishwasher and folding/putting away clothes and math practice and so on can earn time with their favorite games.
It’s not been foolproof, but it’s worked pretty well–that whole knowing what is expected of them has helped folks know how to get on and behave and the like.
Yep. That right there. Knowing what’s expected.
It has cut down on a lot of misunderstandings around here.
So, in the spirit of that concept and how well it has worked, I’d like to share this for the world of social media–especially as it has grown to exist in the past six months.
If you want me to read all the things you are concerned about, things you want to complain about–first you have to earn my attention.
In the same way that my children have to earn their screen time, you have to earn my time by first expressing things worth reading–positive, encouraging, empowering, caring, compassionate words and thoughts and stories. Shoot, some days kittens jumping at cucumbers will suffice. I’m not hard to please.
Except that all the negativity and hate…..I’m over it. I’m tired of all the finger pointing and accusations and hate speech and fear-mongering. The fear-mongering may be the worst of all (in my opinion) because it tends to lead to the other three and all kinds of deterioration happens from there.
My Daddy used to tease Mama about the right hand ledger and the left hand ledger. Things she did for the betterment of those around her “went” on one side, but if she bemoaned one bit about the time it took or how tired she was from her efforts, he teased her that it negated what she’d done because it had to go on the other side of the “page.”
There’s a bit of truth in that. (Well, not about you, Mama.)
If we are always negative and sharing all of the angry, ugly memes and thoughts and quoting folks who are stirring up things just for the sake of dividing folks, then I expect few people are going to pay attention when we find something really good and want to share it.
And somehow when I thought about this, I thought about my children having to earn their time on the devices.
It’s all about balance, isn’t it? Not all play without some effort put forth…..and not all the anger without some efforts to make good changes in our world.
I wonder if maybe we could use the popsicle sticks for Facebook and other outlets– we’d have to post so many good, inspiring, helpful things before we are allowed to post ones that complain or accuse.
It’s a thought.
Wishing you all a good balanced day and a dishwasher that needs unloading for an easy way to earn minutes for playing on your devices….. 🙂
This past Saturday many young women walked across the stage I’ve walked across, and they received the piece of paper that is so much more than that–it’s the results of minutes and hours and days and years of listening and learning and writing and critiquing and speaking and sharing and thinking and challenging themselves to do more, do better, be stronger, think harder, and take one step more towards their goal.
And now. They’ve taken one very huge step.
They are college graduates.
One of those young women is my friend whom I had the privilege of sitting with about a month ago. As we sat in the rocking chairs facing the green of the golf course on my visit “home” for Alumnae Weekend, I had the honor of hearing about her journey. Some about where she’s been and more about where she hopes to go. What she hopes to do. I heard her decisions and her questions in her stories and thoughts, and let me tell you this–
We are in good hands.
If we don’t mess this up.
This beautiful soul has, as so many of us have, found out a lot about herself during her years at Wesleyan. Some surprising, some not so much. She has gained confidence in her abilities and her voice, as her professors and classmates challenged her to come up with ideas, defend her opinions, and put together words and thoughts in a way that others could learn from her. And now–
Now she leaves this nest, this safe place, this place of incubation and growing. It is time, and she is ready.
I need to ask a favor.
For years, we have been telling this young woman and all the young people her age to “grow up.” We’ve sighed when they’ve been silly, calling them out to “do better, be more mature, be responsible.”
And now that they are on their way to do this, it is our very important job not to muck it up for them. It is up to us not to discourage them. And it happens everyday, doesn’t it? People groan about the millennials. I’ve heard comments: “Oh look at them, they think they are grown. Who do they think they are?” Or this: “Ha. Did you hear the ideas they’ve come up with to fix this or that? Right. Like some young upstart can fix this. It’s been a mess for years. Our generation tried, and we couldn’t do a thing about it. What makes them think they can?”
This is WRONG in every sense of the word. Because, in the words of the Grinder, “But what if they can?”
We’ve told them to grow up. They’ve been watching us for years to see what THAT looks like. Now that they’ve reached this pinnacle, this landmark of “being grown,” how can we be anything but positive and encouraging?
We need their dreams and their hearts. They are fragile right now. Fragile, strong, and prepared. Like a baby bird who is a baby no more and whose wings are ready to take flight. Instead of letting our words and eye rolls and patronizing tones take them down like a rock from a sling shot, let’s cheer them on. Just as we did the little blue birds who finally take flight as spring turns into summer and the leaves sway in the breeze and the frogs sing their evening songs. Let’s let them be who they have been becoming the past four or more years, and let’s watch them and listen to them and treat them with the same respect and love that we show those little birds.
And to my little birds who have flown the nest. It and all of your sisters will always be there for you. Years from now, when you most need to feel the safety of the nest, they will take you under their wings and you will be held tightly in their safe embrace, protected, if only for a moment, from life’s greatest storms. You are going to do small things greatly and great things well. Your dreams you have right now might not come to fruition, but never stop dreaming. Never forget the hope you had as you packed up your things to move on to the next part of your journey. Oh I know, there was trepidation too. I remember that. I hate to tell you this, but it never completely goes away. There’s the next step and the next step and the one after that. Over twenty-five years since I left the nest, and at times I still feel the uncertainty of what to do next. But hold on to the woman you have become. She and all the encouragement and advice you have gotten and all of the things you have learned both in the classroom and outside of it will guide you if you will let it. Hold on to your dreams and keep growing.
Because that never stops either. The growing and changing. You are the beautiful butterfly and metamorphosizing caterpillar all at the same time. Ever-changing.
And, to be honest, that’s been surprising and pretty cool too.
Here’s to our new graduates. May we have the wisdom to listen and to encourage them and give them space to try out all the things without fear of what failure would look like. And may they have the energy and resources and support to envision, create, attempt, dream, and change this world for the better.