Lessons in Trusting From an Eleven Year Old

Cooter was sick with his standard Sunday evening 12 hour stomach thing two weeks ago.  I don’t call it a proper bug, because there’s never any rhyme or reason to it.  He doesn’t run fever or have any other symptoms.  Just every so often–occasionally–he will have stomach trouble to the point of vomiting a few times.  Most always on a Sunday evening.  We will stay up late watching his go to “sick” movie (the original Batman), and then once he’s able to, he will make the call on whether he will go to bed or sleep on the couch, and whether or not he prefers me to be close by for the rest of the night.

This last time, I was anxious that he feel better quickly.  If it ran typically, he’d be fine before morning, and we really needed for him to be.  He has drama on Mondays, and he really, really doesn’t need to miss any rehearsals if he can at all help it.  I’m old school, so if I had any doubts about him being well, he wouldn’t be going.  That night I kept asking him if he felt okay.  He did but then a second wave hit.  I decided to try an oil I have that is suppose to help with stomach upset, so I applied it topically.

Things had settled a little, and then he told me that he thought he’d be okay if he didn’t have to keep smelling that smell–that it was really bothering his stomach.  Interesting.  Well, nothing for it but to try to gently wash it off.

He said that helped.

The next morning–as per usual–he woke up asking for his oyster crackers.  And then real food.  He was hungry.  And he kept it down.  And he ate more and was his old self.  Just like all the other times.

Wow.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly his body turns around from whatever THAT was.

I was talking with him that night after drama.  He was glad to feel better and more than happy that I agreed we wouldn’t use the oil for him again.  He said that trying to stop the throwing up was not working.  “See, Mama,” he said in that voice he uses when he is imparting the greatest of wisdom to his old Mama, “I just have to trust the process.  If I’m sick and throwing up, that means I need to do that.  Get the bad stuff out.  Mama.  Trust the process.”  

A lot of the time I can see Mama in my middle child, our Princess.  But in that moment, I could see and hear Mama in my little guy’s words and expression.  He knows how much I worry when he’s sick, but he’s fine because he “trusts the process.”  And in telling me to do it, well, that’s just like my Mama.  Trying to calm me and bring me peace in the midst of chaos.

Trust the process.

That’s so hard to do sometimes, isn’t it?  Because it requires letting go.  Letting go of trying to “fix” things or cure them or even just guiding how it goes.  Being a “scriptwriter” for my own life from way back, this is really hard.

But I look at that peace on my little guy’s face and he’s just taking it in stride.  I’m sick, okay, let me do what I have to do to get better.  

Trust the process.

Trust it in the midst of a new friendship.  Trust the other person.  Give them a chance.  Trust in the middle of planning a huge project. Trust that it will all come together.  Trust in the making of a long journey.  Trust that we will get there, or wherever we get, it will be okay.

It sort of goes hand in hand with what Mama often said, “Do your very best.  Be your best self.”

Because if you do those things, then trust the process, there is a peace in that that calls out to my soul.  I want that.  I need it.

It’s a Sunday again, and today Cooter was out with his best buddies building a fort with sticks and branches trimmed from the trees around their house.  It took them a while, but they built a magnificent fort, and then they proceeded to spend the afternoon on into the evening in it, telling stories, imagining adventures, and making the best of memories.  They took it one step at a time, did what came next, gave it their best efforts, and wound up with a great place to play.

If they’d worried about what kind of fort, or tried to count all the sticks and branches ahead of time, or worried about how it could be torn down before they were finished or how there could be critters living on the sticks or how someone might spill a Gatorade inside the fort (true story) and how that might delay their fun…..well, it could have been a long afternoon and made for some grumpy little guys.

Instead.  They formed an idea, did their best, and trusted the process.  In the end, their lives were all the better for it.

Okay, I know, it’s just a fort.  One that will most likely be fire pit fuel in the next few weeks.

But it’s a beautiful example of trusting the process.  And not nearly so…..ummm, disgusting….as the stomach trouble story.

This week I’m going to follow Cooter’s example and try trusting the process.  In my days, in my conversations, in my relationships.  I’m going to try giving it my best and then letting go.  I’m hoping I’ll have as big a smile as these guys did this afternoon, hanging out in the midst of broken branches and limbs that their trust and hard work turned into a pretty cool place to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Or a lifetime.

Love to all.

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One corner of this afternoon’s magnificent fort.

Gilligan, Tom Hanks, and That Deserted Isle Thing

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.

“Castaway.”

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.

It’s still too soon.

Love to all.

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By CBS Television (eBay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Summer of Little Knocks

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.

Love to all.

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By Scrypted (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Popsicle Sticks and Provoking Posts

Summer is here.

School is out.

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….. 🙂

Love to all.

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Our buckets–when something is done, the stick gets moved to the other side…..

 

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

This morning I took my littles to their last STEM class for the school year.  It was on Robotics.  They got to build their own robots as teams, and they seemed to really enjoy it.

When we first got there this morning, we parked the car and began the trek to the building where the class is held.  As we started down the pathway, a woman–another Mama I’m assuming–was walking towards us.  We caught each other’s eyes and smiled.  I nodded and as she passed she smiled again, and then was gone.

But her smile has stuck with me all day.

I didn’t know her.  I may never see her again.  But there was something about her, the way that she carried herself, that was intriguing.

It was like–

it was like she was comfortable in her own skin.  With her lot in life.  Like she was not sorry for the joy she feels getting up in the morning.

It was almost like being a World Greeter is her  J O B.

You know, like the Wal-Mart greeters?  They are some of the most precious folks I know.  The one I know best, I guess, is Miss Mary.  I will go out of my way just so I can speak to her, ask her how she’s doing, and have her say, with her smile and unique manner, “Hello. Welcome.”  She doesn’t know my name, and whether or not she actually remembers me from visit to visit is debatable, but her welcome and her expression makes me feel as though she does.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?  If we had World Greeters or maybe Day Greeters–folks who welcome us to our life each day and ask if there’s anything they can do to help make the experience even better?

What would that look like for us to be that for each other?

Pretty doggone cool, I’m thinking.

Tonight I’m thankful for folks whose joy overflows onto the paths I walk on.  For folks who are always there when I call or let me know when they’re not, just in case.  For smiles from strangers and from folks I love.  For birthdays of good friends and songs on the radio that stir my soul.  For movie previews of books I love that have me ready to BUY MY TICKET NOW.  For classes on robots and the little people who will one day take that knowledge and do amazing things.  For friends with musical talent and texts that have me laughing for days.  For ideas of what to cook for supper that arrive earlier rather than later and for all the fixings close at hand.  Most of all, I’m thankful for people who know me and call my name.  I think I might have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

A World Greeter.

Welcome, folks.  How can I help you find your way to fabulous today?

Love to all.

 

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Grocery Carts, Granola Bars, and Gratitude

Yesterday as the littles and I were pushing our overloaded buggy out of the grocery store with two of us carrying additional bags that wouldn’t fit, I saw him.

The young guy.  With two bottles of water and a snazzy brand of high protein granola bars or some such.  He was in the self checkout lane.

For just a second I zoned out.

(partially because it took great effort on ALL of our parts to get our cart moving with purpose in the right direction and we had made the mistake of stopping to readjust our load)

I wondered if he’d ever find himself one day apologizing to the cashier every. single. time. he approached the checkout conveyor belt with his full cart.  I wondered if he’d feel guilty putting someone through ringing up ALL THE THINGS he had taken so long to painstakingly find, only to get up there, remember three things he’s forgotten, and decide it’s just not worth going back for.  I wondered if he’d watch closely to make sure his littles weren’t reading the trashy headlines on all those magazines on display.  (There’s just some questions you don’t want to answer quite yet. If ever.)

I wondered if exhaustion would ever overtake him to the point that he’d drive straight up to the drive thru window at the place on the other side of the grocery store parking lot, with a van full of FOOD, to order supper because the trip through the store with the littles was more than enough work for one day.  And it all still had to be unloaded at home.  And put away.

I wondered if he’d ever map out how to place all those bags of food in his vehicle, so the freezer stuff could be put away quickly but the other things not so much, as in maybe a couple of bags stay on the floor in the kitchen for a day or two, just because.

I watched him ringing up his few items, and I wondered if he’d ever use a self checkout again, later in his life, except for maybe when he is picking up items for his wife who asked him to pick up some personal things on the way home.  Or when his children beg him to let them “do it,” causing the supervising cashier to have to come over and clear things out or fix the system a total of four times during the transaction.

I thought about where he might be headed, and I wondered how long those bars would last him.  I knew the average on my cart–this not even being a full-fledged stock up trip–and I’d be back before him I was pretty sure.

For just a moment, I wanted to walk out the door with what he had and let him push this stubborn cart across those bumpy things right outside the door taking care not to fling anything off the top or bottom of the buggy.  I wanted to leave without my arms full of food, keys, wallet, receipt, and just go.

Granola bars and all.

And then I realized that if my hands were empty, my heart would be too.  As my littles helped me unload the buggy, first clearing the floor of the vehicle of all their STUFF THAT THEY ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE ANYTIME WE LEAVE THE HOUSE to make room, and then stacking bread here, chips there, frozen stuff at the front so it could be unloaded first…..I looked at them and all the food and assorted things it takes to take good care of them, and I was humbled and near about knocked to my knees with gratitude.  I am sure that young fella has a good life.  I hope he was headed somewhere to do something good that would bring him joy.  But my life?  I’m lucky.  I have children who put up with my wackiness as much as I put up with theirs.  We’re able to afford providing food and shelter for them, and we enjoy little extras too.  We tend to get along well with each other, except when someone touches someone or goes in their room WITHOUT permission.  (Also spying on each other when playing with friends is frowned upon.)  But other than that, we’re a pretty decent bunch, and I’m quite fond of all, individually and collectively.

Some of my favorite sounds are when my oldest walks through the door, home from college, and Miss Sophie’s tail starts wagging and our Princess’ and Cooter’s tales start wagging and all the laughter and games and music and impromptu dancing ensue.

I wouldn’t miss that for all the quick self-checkouts and snazzy granola bars in the world.

This is my season for full buggies that are hard to push, hour long grocery store trips, and bags of groceries on the kitchen floor.

And for now, that’s a beautiful thing.

Love to all.

Healthy_snacks_in_cart

By Unknown photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Name He Gave Me

Apparently my name is hard to say.  Over the years it’s been mispronounced or misunderstood quite a few times.  (Somehow on more than one occasion, the person on the other end of the phone has thought I was saying “Pat.”  How you get Pat from Tara, I got no idea, but there it is.)

Perhaps the most distinctive memory I have of my name being mispronounced was when I was in the sixth grade.  There were a handful of us who went to a different class during fourth period, but when our teacher was out, we went back to the other classroom because they didn’t get a substitute teacher.  On this particular day, the teacher who wasn’t crazy about our presence in her classroom decided to make it a point to explain why my name should be pronounced TAR (rhymes with car) UH.  (“The R-uh controls the A.  Always.”)

Ummmm, not how I was raised, but whatever.  I wasn’t one to rock the boat at all, but I remember my good friend, tired of the whole thing, saying, “Mrs. M, Tara could write XYZ up on that board and tell us that’s her name and it’s pronounced Ta-ruh, and we’d have to say it that way.  Because it’s her name.”

I don’t remember the outcome of the day, probably because I was mortified, but I do remember feeling relieved that the day was over and thankful to my friend for speaking up on my behalf.

Cooter seems to struggle with the pronunciation himself, as he is stuck on a short “e” sound instead of short “a.”  But whatever, he gets the Mama part right, so it’s never really been an issue.

Or so I thought.  He informed me Monday that “since your name is too hard to say correctly, I’m going to call you Timothy.”

And so he did.

“Timothy, is this the right answer on this math problem?”

“Timothy, it’s not funny.”  (Because I was laughing and soon he was too.)  “Everything okay in there, Timothy?”

“I’m ready for lunch, Timothy.”

I think the real clincher was on Tuesday when, after we went to vote, he was telling his sister “NO” to all of the candidates she could think of to list.  “What?  Do you want President Obama to stay President another four years?”

“No, I don’t.”  He turned to me. “Timothy, the one thing I’ve learned in my life about politics is you can’t trust any of them.”

Oh me.

I suppose it will sound strange if we go out in public, and he calls for “Timothy” and I answer.  The thing is we have a lot of pet names in this family, and I kind of love that this is one he picked out all by himself for me.  He smiles when he says it–oh that smile–and he never says it in anger.

So yeah, I’m okay with that.

Besides, I remember my Mama’s answer when someone asked about what her grandchildren called her–her grandmother name.  When they asked, she looked real thoughtful, smiled really big, and said, “You know, I really don’t care what they call me–as long as they call me.”

And so with that, I’ll be Timothy as long as Cooter wants me to be.

It’s growing on me.  Just like he did about nine years ago.  Right there in my heart.

Love to all.

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from Romeo and Juliet