Saturday, March 5, 2016

Me Time

    As my family members announced that each one had plans for the weekend, I realized that I may actually be home alone for two days.  I'm not sure that has ever happened over the course of the last twenty-one years.  It was probably hard to hide the sparkle in my eye as the gears turned deep inside my head, conjuring up thoughts of all the things I could do with 48 hours of free time.  So many choices.  So many possibilities.....

    Friday night was full of wild abandon as I filled the washer with clothes clearly marked hand wash. I threw out all of the half-open products in the refrigerator that someone wanted to save, but would never return to enjoy.  Out went restaurant style salsa, bean dip, a half-eaten pizza and what may have once been an icee.  

    I tossed out clothing that had not been worn in years and would never be worn again.   I emptied drawers and filled trash cans and danced about the house like a woman on a mission. 

    Saturday morning began with a cup of coffee and mile high whip cream sculptures floating on top. I ate them with a spoon and without, feeling confident in my suddenly found barista skills.  Earth, Wind and Fire played at full volume in my kitchen as I danced around, throwing out disco moves not seen since that Kappa Sigma party in 1982.  I Googled "How to Regrout a Tub" and stripped the grout from the wall like a card-carrying journeyman.  I planted flowers, pulled weeds and paid bills, all to the 120 beats per minute of "Let's Groove" that set the tempo for getting things done. 

    At the end of the wild day of "me" time, I collapsed into a tub of hot water to relax, not the one that no longer has any grout. Later I sat on the edge of my bed, in my PJs, looking about the empty bedroom and I remembered the time the kids would fly in and spring upon the bed in wild acrobatic moves. We would laugh and scream and giggle and covers would go everywhere.  I saw the baby books on a shelf that we once read together, the one about the kitten with red shoes and the other about babies like mine who are soft and warm and cuddly. I miss those days.  But a stronger and bigger emotion is the happiness that fills me when I think about those times gone by.  What a wonderful time it has been giving my children all my "me" time that I could.  It has been the greatest joy of my life. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

In Search of Christmas

Many a message has been spread about seeking the true meaning of Christmas which most know has nothing to do with Black Friday, piles of packages under a tree, or the overeating that comes with holiday gatherings.  Each year, I come up with a plan to finish my shopping early so I can lead my family towards the real reason for the season.  As the days pass and Christmas quickly approaches, my shopping is still not complete and the many Christmas events I’ve attended still leave me searching for that one clear moment where I can look my children in their eyes and say, "Yes!  This is Christmas." But, it doesn’t come.  It’s never that clear to me.  And sometimes, it comes with a heaviness of failing to make things perfect.  Perhaps I’m waiting for a bright star overhead to lead me to a place that I can’t find on Google maps.  Christmas day will soon pass and as I collapse on my couch in a living room full of torn wrapping paper and empty boxes, I’ll fault myself for never showing my kids that clear moment that I believe is Christmas.

Maybe Christmas is more than just a single event, place, or time.  As I woke this morning knowing that my family was all home under one roof, my heart filled with joy.  As I saw the empty cups and plates on the kitchen counter, I knew that the night before had been filled with fellowship, laughter and a few tasty treats. The stack of wrapping paper in the corner with its bright foils reminds me that I still have packages to wrap and may never actually get to the end of my Christmas list.  A sleeping cat rests underneath our Christmas tree that proudly displays ornaments that tell the story of our lives, some ornaments dating back over 100 years.  The gentleness of mornings like this is part of the bigger picture that makes up Christmas.  While I’ve been looking for that one defining moment, it is actually all around me. 

When we go to church Sunday as a family and sneak candy to each other during the sermon, it’s because Christmas brought us all there and those moments are far better than anything wrapped under my tree.  The laughter that echoes down the hallway late at night when my children’s friends gather here, that is Christmas.  Hearts returning home in celebration of the birth of Christ, that is what makes the season joyous. From foil wrapping paper to Christmas choirs, movies with friends, and laughter around the dinner table, that is my Christmas.  Removing the cat from the Christmas tree, trying to build some gift that came with no instructions and making yet another trip to the grocery store for more food, these are the things that all come together to make Christmas grand.

Christmas, today, is not a single moment of pure joy that rises above everything else.  It is a series of blessings that come quietly at times and loudly at others.  That single perfect moment occurred many years ago when a young woman caught the attention of the world with the birth of her child.   That gift came quietly in the night and is the reason for the many moments of joy we find now as we gather with family during the holiday season.  Christmas cannot be wrapped up, contained or plotted on a map, as it is a blessing that has carried forward for over 2000 years.   It is a season of love that comes with perfection already built in. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Oh Paleo

Oh Paleo, You have robbed me of my good friends sugar, wheat and dairy. They’ve been with me since my first birthday cake and traveled with me through college, late night pregnancy binges and those times when my very best friend was a piece of chocolate pie. You pushed them away and they fought to stay, calling to me with their sprinkle toppings, chocolate kisses and double, stuffed pizza.  When my bones began to ache and I woke each morning from a slumber that was similar to being run over by a truck, I suspected that I might be running with the wrong crowd.  

Sugar offered me comfort and told me everything would be okay.  I believed her and never saw her for the evil temptress that she is.  Wheat whispered to me with flaky, golden crispness and always brought along her friend margarine who blinded me with buttery goodness.

Dairy was my favorite and the midnight hour was our meeting time when a cold glass of milk was often followed up with two or three Oreos that brought me quiet joy.  

Paleo, however, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Come here.  Give me thirty days and I'll change your life."  I turned my back on bad food choices and learned to welcome lean meats, vegetables and fresh fruit.  The shiny red cans of Coca Cola disappeared from my refrigerator and were replaced with water.  After the headaches stopped and the sugar disappeared from my system, I began to feel younger and even a bit thinner. It was a slow process losing only a pound or two a week.  Before long, my clothes were too big and my daughter said, "Mom, buy some smaller clothes."

The first purchase of new jeans came and went within two weeks as they, too, became too loose.  My daughter said, "Mom.... Buy some skinny pants."  I blindly followed her instruction and it only took about thirty minutes wearing floozy pants that I retreated to the comfort of my Chico's mom jeans.  They were soft and roomy and the perfect choice, so I thought.  My child disagreed.

Today as I dressed, I saw what my daughter sees and realized my clothes are now much too big.  It is a fabulous problem to have and I thank you Paleo for leading me to better choices and better health.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Three Day Rule

    For most every rule, there is always an exception. With that in mind, I share with you the three-day rule that my mother created many years ago. Whether it is heartache, indecision, or having your feelings hurt, you have three days to lick your wounds, assess the situation or throw an all-out pity party for yourself if you so desire. After three days, however, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move forward. 
    While I’m not even sure what a bootstrap is, I know what I am expected to do on day four. There is no promise it will be easy, but there is assurance that nothing good will come if you don’t pick up the pieces and move ahead. Nothing is ever gained from wallowing in the comforts of self-pity. The few exceptions to this rule include loss of a loved one and illness, those obvious mountains that can’t be climbed in three days.

    When I was 18, I decided to spend the summer, four states away, making my fortune waiting tables for minimum wage in a local Mexican restaurant. My mother looked on with great doubt. When my checking account was below zero and my safety was at stake, my mother snatched me home and informed me that I would go to college somewhere within a 200 mile radius. In shock and disbelief, I took to my bed for three days and called it the flu. My mother knew I was licking my wounds and on day four I was met by a team of family members who snatched me from my self pity and showed me the path forward.  That was my first taste of the three-day rule. My uncles showed up in a 1980’s conversion van and I sat in the back seat as we drove around town until I had no doubt about what comes next in the life of an unemployed 18 year old, unskilled at properly carrying a large tray of nachos and quesadillas.

    I have invoked the three day rule many times over the years to assist with broken hearts, missed opportunities, embarrassing moments, and bullies who somehow made it to adulthood. While I no longer disguise it as the flu, I have been known to sit in the dark and spend a weekend watching The Godfather Trilogy surrounded by empty bags of comfort food. Five pounds heavier and four days later, I arise from the depths of the couch with a renewed attitude, a prayer of thankfulness on my heart and the vision to see the good that clearly outweighs the bad.

    My children are already well versed in the three-day rule and I have watched them calmly accept bad news of lost pets, stolen items, failed projects, or being left out. While their hearts may be heavy, they emerge from their sadness after three days and never look back. Unlike their mother, they take to their rooms, wrapped up in auxiliary cords and headphones while they let music distract them from their worries. They don’t need a weekend with the Corleones. They just need time…  and three days is what they are allowed before that van full of family members shows up at their door ready to take them for a little ride. Take it from me and from Luca Brasi, a ride with family who disagree with your actions is never a good ride. As long as you are up by day four, you’ll never have to worry about such. 

    So, take your three days, mend what is broken, accept that healing may take some time, and set your sights forward. On day four, wake with a smile. Thank God for all that is good and take that first step towards happiness. It truly makes all the difference.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

As Simple As Peaches

My 51st birthday was upon us and all I really wanted was to travel north to see my son.  I needed a day with both children.  Unable to find a hotel room anywhere in Nashville, I thought I might try airbnb, a service that allows you to rent a room in a stranger's house.  My daughter cringed at the thought, but the reservation was made.

We arrived at my son's doorstep late Friday afternoon.  It seemed he and his sister had developed a birthday itinerary that was full of food, fun and laughter.  I eyed the stops we would make and the one that stood out above the rest was 9:30 a.m. - The Peach Truck. (Okay... and the nap)  As a former resident of Georgia, the sweet taste of Georgia peaches still calls to me. My mouth watered as I thought of the stand of peaches waiting for me on my birthday.  The itinerary included gourmet snow cones, shopping, too much food and a midnight movie.  There was a long day ahead of us and we would need sleep before we began.  

Afraid that our overnight lodging may be with an axe murderer, I had my son go with us to the house, for protection.  Three screams are better than two, so it couldn't hurt.  We arrived at a lovely home that seemed quite safe and secure.  The owners were out of town, but there were other guests who would be staying in another room. Something about it felt so wrong, but then the comforts of home beckoned us in and we shut the front door behind us.  We were the only ones in the large unfamiliar home with many locked doors and we settled into our room armed with cell phones and large curling brushes.  It was some time after my son left that we heard the front door open.  Frozen in our bed, unknowing who was mere steps away, we listened to our housemates disappear into the silent house.  I could only assume they were as curious about us as we were of them.  Eventually sleep took hold and we woke to a new day... my birthday.  

Of all the activities of this day, my favorite was the Farmer's Market where my children and I washed fresh fruit in a garden hose and ate it near the Peach Truck.  The sun was already hot and the taste of plums and peaches quenched our thirst.  Our fingers were sticky from the fruit juice running down our hands, but the taste was that of summer and it reminded me of days gone by.  Better than birthday cake, simple peaches delivered happiness on my special day.  

The day continued forward with many great stops and food fit for a queen.  At 11:07 p.m., I had to call it quits on the birthday itinerary of fun.  Perhaps I was too old for a midnight movie, or perhaps I had already achieved just the right amount of fun.  My children understood and we returned to our home away from home where we would once again sleep with strangers in the house.  When we arrived, the other guests were already home.  A chance meeting in the kitchen dispelled all of our fears as we learned that the two school teachers upstairs were just as worried about us as we were of them.  We laughed, made new friends and all returned to our rooms where we still locked our doors behind us because, really, what good is a curling brush when a stranger comes calling in the middle of the night.  

The birthday weekend was grand and we love our Nashville home. Our host family was wonderful and we hope to visit again.  As we traveled back to our own home, we took with us a small paper sack of peaches so that we could share a taste of summer with friends and family.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Three Spoon Balloon

    I spent the entire weekend packing up old toys, video games, board games and trading cards that my children haven't touched in years. As I sorted and sifted through hundreds of these items, I realized that we have spent a lot of money entertaining our children.  However, of all the games and toys in the house, the most memorable one, which was the greatest fun, was a game we invented, called Three Spoon Balloon.  It came with no cost, no rules and no shortage of laughter.

    My children and I armed ourselves with long handled, wooden spoons and batted a simple balloon around the living room.  Everyone was well aware that the balloon could never hit the floor.  We have jumped across chairs and tables with arms outstretched in order to catch a slowly falling balloon before it hit the ground.  We have each taken an elbow to the face and skinned our knees on the carpet as we crashed into one another in a group effort to keep the balloon "alive" and in flight.

   Perhaps, not the safest of games, it did come with gentler moments when each of us lightly tapped the balloon into a new course as it softly climbed and fell around the room.  As the peaceful rhythm of the wafting balloon became hypnotic, someone would always break free from the trance and take their wooden spoon and whack the balloon into oblivion.   It was game on at that point, and players became very territorial in their corners of the living room.  I preferred the far corner by the fireplace in an attempt to prevent children from flying into the brick.  Of course, while it was called "Three Spoon Balloon," no player was ever turned away. Others have joined in the fun with plastic swords and assorted kitchen utensils. Everyone worked hard to make sure the balloon didn't hit the ground in their area of the living room.  With spoons in the air, the balloon was protected at all costs.  We have had five or more players at times and while everyone had fun jumping and diving over one another, the best games were always with three spoons and the undivided attention of my two children.

  My daughter's spoon was covered in bling with dozens of stickers of penguins, smiley faces, lady bugs and more. My son's spoon is a few inches longer than the others, giving him some kind of unspoken edge over his sister and me.  My spoon is a simple no frills wooden spoon worn down on the edges from stirring Kool-Aid and spaghetti sauce, at different times, of course.

  Three Spoon Balloon delivered more fun than thousands of dollars worth of toys and games. Tonight, my house is full of teenage girls who are happily swimming in the pool.  Can you only imagine the looks on their faces, later tonight, when I hand each of them a wooden spoon? Only one will know what's coming next and I know she will smile when she takes hold of her decorated spoon.  It's game on, once again.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Start What You Finish

  It goes without saying that good parents teach their children to finish what they start.  My own children have discovered how difficult this can be, just days after receiving their soccer jerseys and realizing that soccer wasn't what they wanted to do.  They have completed a season on a team, giving their all, even when they did not enjoy that which they had signed up for.  It's a life lesson that will carry them far.

  My son was only six years old when he landed a solo in the school play.  He had practiced and practiced and had his three minute song memorized and perfected.  As luck would have it, a seasonal cold left him hoarse the day before the play. He reserved his voice, communicating only with finger points and head nods, in an attempt to heal his vocal chords in time for the big event.  There was a morning practice and an afternoon performance.  He made it through the morning with only a few crackles in his voice.  When afternoon came, and the auditorium was filled with proud parents, my shining star stood at the top of the stage and began belting out his solo.  The first few words were beautiful and delivered in perfect pitch.  And then it came, the harsh crackling of a voice being torn from the performer and suddenly, no sounds came out.  Had I been in his position, I'm not certain I wouldn't have left the stage and hoped that the director would move to the next scene.  It was first grade after all.  No parents would have judged him.  Instead, that tiny child with the once big voice, continued to sing without sound and never missed a word.  A stunned audience watched as a child moved forward, finishing what he had started, delivering a silent performance worthy of a standing ovation.   I could not have been more proud of him.

  My daughter, an outstanding gymnast, who spent the most part of her early years upside down in half twists as she catapulted herself from room to room, has also lived this philosophy of finishing what you start.  After years of gymnastics and after school practice, five days a week for long hours, her twelve year old bones began to creak and pop.  On a grey November day, she shared with me that she was tired.  This wasn't the kind of tired that a nap can cure. Her body was tired.  She finished the season and finished what she had started with the completion of the Spring program on a Sunday afternoon in May.  It was, indeed, a grand finish.

  I've taught my children to do these things, and yet, I find myself in a quandary, unable to start what I have finished.  Let me explain.... I've written a 25,000 word book that has been finished for over two years.  The ending is great, but the beginning keeps changing.  It has changed shape and form while the characters come and go.  Edits are made and just when I think the beginning is good, I change it all again.  I've finished what I started, but I can't seem to get the start right.  And then.... I gave up.  I shelved it.... left it in a digital folder.  Had my children quit what they started, I would have placed them back in the proverbial saddle, put on that jersey, or cheered them on from the stands.  Perhaps I need a good dose of my own medicine.

   My long lost book characters call to me from their digital silence and I find myself ignoring their call.  I should remember that I heard my child when no words came out.  Sometimes you need to listen even when you believe there is nothing worth listening too.  I suppose I should follow my guidance to my children and listen to what is calling me and truly finish that which I keep starting over and over again.