The past two weeks are nothing but fog. Hazy. My calendar is somewhere. I’m sure appointments have been missed. If I didn’t show up for something, forgive me. I’ll make it up to you. It might help if you remind me what it was.
I hate to even tell y’all everything that’s happened, because it could always be worse. It’s so easy to become a complainer. But you know what? We only know what’s right in front of us. It isn’t necessary to compare and compete for worst days. Maybe it isn’t complaining. Let’s call it commiserating instead. Just nod with understanding for a minute.
So we had that ice storm. We lost power, like everyone else in Augusta. The night the trees came down was terrifying for us all. It was a war zone. After the storm, we came together and started to clean up our city. We threw away freezers full of food. We chain sawed together. We counted our blessings. It could’ve been so much worse.
Strangely enough, when we were still in the dark, we had an earthquake. I know, California, yours are bigger. It wasn’t enough to do damage, but it rattled our already fragile nerves. It could’ve been so much worse.
Last weekend, I was in a car wreck with my kids. It was terrifying. A sheriff’s deputy on a motorcycle hit us. It was nothing more than an accident. He made a quick judgment call, which resulted in two scared children, a hysterical mama, and his ejection from the bike. Fortunately, his injuries were superficial. The people who stopped to act as official witnesses, comfort my children, move my car, and everything else I can’t remember, deserve a hug. Penny, you’re the best. My angel. I wasn’t hurt, the kids are fine, and the officer got up and walked away. Minor property damage isn’t a big deal. It could’ve been so much worse.
30 minutes after the rubble cleared, my friend Debbie lost her long, hard battle with cancer. She was one special lady. She has everyone thinking they’re her best friend. She’s never met a stranger. Her parties were like no other. She and her beloved husband of 40 years, her sweetheart, Jimmy, always sat in their garage, cocktail or diet Coke in hand, waiting for their friends. The whole garage thing may seem a little strange, but this was no ordinary garage. It’s a carport, really, with a pool table, TV, refrigerator, popcorn maker, hot dog cooker, big comfy chairs, a heater, an ice maker, and a tiny sink for rinsing wine glasses.
She will be missed by so many. Right before she died, Deb’s BFF, also named Debbie, said “I’m about to see what it’s like to live without her.” It’s sad, right? You’re thinking, “It will be so weird and inappropriate if she says ‘it could’ve been so much worse’.” Believe me, it’s bad, but it could’ve been so much worse.
You see, Debbie’s spirit was so profound, she made friendships. Like, she built them. As if she was simply baking a cake, she brought people together. We experienced that, first-hand. Her chair is empty, but we have eleventy billion happy memories. We’d love to hear her laugh again, but more importantly, she isn’t in pain anymore.
My point, though it took me awhile to get here, is not only that I’ve had a bad go of it. It’s not my intention to see who’s had a harder time, this person or that. But if there’s an ice storm tree in your den, or you’re driving a teeny tiny rental car because your car was smashed in a scary accident where a cop flew through the air, or a loved one is sick, it truly could be worse. I promise. Sit back, take a deep breath, and find a good thing. Even if it’s tiny, like “Hey, my vacuum still works!” It won’t get rid of the awfulness, but maybe it will lighten your load. If not, wine works, too. Raise a glass to my friend Deb while you’re at it.
To quote my favorite Scottish prayer, “Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us; so be quick to love, and make haste to be kind.” And hug your people, people.
*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA http://www.metrospirit.com
Because I love a list. Especially a random list.
1. When your son puts on a suit for the first time, it’s a big deal. If you see him shaking the groom’s hand, congratulating him on such a lovely wedding, grab the tissues.
2. Even though you okayed having her ears pierced, you’ll cry.
3. For the moms out there who hate me for changing my “You have to be 10 before your ears will be pierced” rule (and now your : The Girl broke a terrible habit of biting her fingernails. I gave her a goal that meant something, and she did it. She deserved earrings.
4. Once you give the go-ahead, there’s no talking an excited almost eight year old out of piercing her ears. When the piercer has shaky hands and can’t draw the purple dot on your daughter’s lobe, don’t panic. Do ask for another employee to come make sure the dots are symmetrical. If all goes well, these holes will be there, like, forever.
5. When she goes to squeeze that little gun (yes, just one at a time because the other one is broken) try and ignore the tears of your already nervous babygirl when the piercer struggles bit. Let’s just say it wasn’t “quick” like taking of a band-aid or something.
6. When the same babygirl cries because they still have to do the other ear, employ her brother and friends to entertain her. It won’t work, but you’ll feel better. Summon that backup employee again.
7. When you see how different she looks with earrings, you might regret it, but her satisfaction from earning such a big prize is worth it. You’ll be proud, too.
8. When you walk past a mirror anytime for, say, the next week or so, she will stop and admire herself in the mirror. She’ll make comments about being beautiful. When you’re tempted to remind her that earrings don’t make a person pretty, and it’s what’s on the inside that counts, stop. Let her have this one.
9. As for the employee at the mall ear piercing place, can you practice on a steak or something?
10. To the guy, um, making himself happy next to the tennis courts at our match the other day. You are nasty. When we yelled, “someone call the police!” we weren’t bluffing. The police came. We have your number. I beg you to come back, but not because I want to see you again. The next time, you won’t get away.
11. If you live anywhere north of Georgia, you laugh when we shut down because of possible impending wintry mixes. To us, it’s no joke. We don’t have snow plows or winter clothes. Why would we? This happens to us once a year, if that. I’m not buying my quickly growing children snow pants and winter boots. You win. Your winter is colder. I don’t want your winter.
12. Rain boots are southern snow shoes.
13. Fact: people drink more milk when it snows. It’s a tie between eggs and bread for most popular snack. I’m not buying it. I go straight for the wine and dark chocolate.
14. No matter what you think about how we react to snow, know this: We think it’s that cool, every single time. We’ll make snow angels out of a dusting and post pics on Instagram.
15. There’s a button in my car that says SNOW. I’m not exactly sure what its intended purpose is, but I pushed it. It snowed. My children think I’m MAGIC. I’m goin’ with it. Cheers!
If I told you this story last week, I might not have seen the humor. My boy, my very passive, honest, kind boy, is learning his way. He’s figuring out how to, um, lie.
Now, to be fair, the things he’s lying about aren’t that big of a deal. They aren’t a matter of life or death, for him or anyone else. They aren’t illegal. Lying simply is something I don’t handle well. At all.
In case you haven’t been able to tell, I’m an open book. I don’t come out and share everything, but if asked, I’ll probably answer. I’m a terrible actor, so even if I tried to lie, you’d probably know it. My dad only spanked me twice in my life. Both times were because I didn’t tell the truth. I was also a quick learner.
Once, I colored on the wall. Dad asked if I did, and of course I said, “No, Daddy.” Seeing as I was the only child in the house old enough to get around on her own, Dad knew I did it. I knew I did it. He walked me in to the living room (read: the forbidden room with white couches) and showed me what I “didn’t do.” I still denied it. I got a spanking. I cried. My dad wanted to cry.
When The Boy got off the bus last week, I asked him to do his homework right away.
(If he doesn’t do it immediately, it takes three times as long and the whole family wants to leave home.)
He went outside to work on it, as he often does. A bit later, I noticed a black caped figure darting around the yard, Harry Potter style. I smiled, knowing my good boy finished his work and was enjoying the beautiful weather. The Girl ran out to join him.
I called them to wash up for dinner, and The Boy sat down to finish his homework. What? Yeah, I asked him the same question. He gave me some speech about how The Girl messed him up and blah, blah, blah. I asked if that was true and gave him a chance to come clean. He didn’t.
Because of how I feel about lying in general, it was all I could do to stay calm(ish). I sent him to his room, telling him to stay there until I had dinner on the table. When I went to check on him, I said “Please clean your room. No playing with electronics.” Okay, maybe it was more like WHILE YOU’RE IN HERE YOU MIGHT AS WELL DO SOMETHING WORTHWHILE. PICK UP YOUR STUFF. DON’T LET ME CATCH YOU ON THAT KINDLE, OR YOU WON’T GET IT BACK UNTIL YOU GO TO COLLEGE.
Dinner passed. Kids went to bed. I relaxed on the couch. Around 9:30 that night, and because the morning had been rough, too, I experienced a touch of Mom Guilt. I’m not often affected by MG, but I felt like I should go in and promise a better day tomorrow. I wasn’t planning on apologizing. I am his parent – not his friend. I just wanted to tell him we were okay.
I couldn’t see him in his bed. Where in the hell was he? “Boy?” I said his name. Silence. It was pitch black in his room, so I made my way over to the bed, and as my eyes adjusted, I saw the cord coming out from under the quilt. The charger cord for a Kindle. Deep breath. Cuss in head only.
“What are you doing?” I wasn’t nice.
“Nothing?” He replied in a wimpy, almost questioning tone. It was as if he was saying, “Honestly, I don’t have the faintest idea what I’m doing. My hands overtook my brain, and I’d swear I’m not doing a thing.”
Let’s put it this way. He was in trouble. I told him (maybe my voice was raised a tad) there are decisions to be made every day, and each yields either rewards or consequences. It’s a simple, but important, life lesson. I told him it wasn’t very smart to sneak around or lie when you were already in trouble for sneaking around and lying. Actually, it was stupid. I kept that part to myself.
The MG persisted, but I know I did the right thing. Our kids don’t run our house. The adults do. At nearly eight and ten, they still need us. Sure, they can make a peanut butter sandwich. They pee in the toilet several times per day and get themselves dressed every morning. They know to be nice to others, and they know not to lie. You know what? They screw up. I do, too.
I’ll tell them when they do, just as my parents did. They’ll be sentenced every single time. I may feel a little MG, but I can handle it. Our kids aren’t that bad. Yet. I need to stop them while I can. I’ve already told them there’re surveillance cameras placed throughout the house, and even if there weren’t, I know what they’re doing at all times. Until they ask to see the footage, I’m good. As long as the wine doesn’t run dry.
**originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA http://www.metrospirit.com
“10 Ways You’re Screwing Up Your Kid.”
“5 Things You Can do to Make Your Marriage Better.”
“3 Reasons Your Friends are Better Lovers than You.”
“The Biggest Reason You Suck.”
Are you familiar with these? If not, be thankful. The first few were cute. My husband and I laughed and nodded enthusiastically as we read “8 Reasons Your Wife Hates You” or “13 Ways to Improve Your Husband.” They were funny lists.
Y’all know I love lists. I fill this space with pointless lists on a regular basis. The lists I’m talking about now are different.
Your friends post them on Facebook. Occasionally, someone will email or text one to you. The titles are catchy, so you click the link. You skim through the list, thinking, “Yes! I get this. I should work on that. I’ll share this!”
Stop it. Please. Reading these lists will make anyone question the choices they’ve made. They spark discussions among the masses (read: bored people). Fiery debates about breastfeeding, how soon parents should be away from their children (ASAP), and three simple words that could end your marriage or something. People are angry.
How about this? Instead of researching and theorizing and arguing, just live. Try it. If that doesn’t work, try it a different way. How on earth do you think people survived before these blogs and lists existed? Trial and error, that’s how.
Some of you are planners. You like a map. I get it. Suggestions are good.
None of us is perfect. Nope, not even you. That’s a fact. It’s completely acceptable to know that. No list will change that. Reading lists that tell us how imperfect we are only helps us to forget ways we’re not. Here’s your list:
1. If you’re a parent, trust your instincts, as eleventy billion parents have already. Will you screw up? Probably. Will the world end if your baby eats steamed squash that wasn’t pureed just like that perfect mommy blogger suggested? Nope. Surprise! Your baby is still alive!
2. Call a doctor if necessary.
3. Be safe.
4. Use common sense.
5. Call a cab when needed.
6. Spend time with your husband/wife/partner. It doesn’t have to be a fancy date. Many marriages survive on frozen pizza and cheap beer.
7. Teach your children well.
8. Respect others, no matter what.
9. Use “please” and “thank you.”
10. Remember that life is short. Try not to worry so much. Worrying is a time waster. It takes you out of the moment.
You are a person capable of making decisions. You were made that way. Use your mad skills and get it done.
11. Give advice only when asked.
12. Hug when appropriate (don’t be creepy).
I’m not trying to oversimplify here. I wish I was an expert on even one thing. Unfortunately, I lack training and skills. I rely on guesswork and hunches. So far, so good. I stay away from internet advice and baby books. I’ve never read a marriage handbook. Maybe I should. If something gets really screwed up, I’ll go back and fix it, I guess.
Just know this: you’re awesome. Even if that list says you’re not. Go with it. It’s a new year. Be happy. Work on being healthy. If that means drinking nasty green stuff, do it. If that’s not for you, find your own way. It’s your road. Do the best you can. Love your people, people. They’re all we’ve got. Keep your wits and enjoy your wine. Cheers!
*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta GA http://www.metrospirit.com
We typically get a Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving. If I’m gonna spend that much time decorating, we’ll enjoy it for as long as possible. I’ve tried to follow the tradition of our church, which is to keep the tree up through Epiphany, but by Christmas day, we’re done. Sorry, Father Fain.
For those who are curious and/or interested, Epiphany is typically celebrated on January 6th. It’s the demonstration or showing of, God in human form, which for Christians is the big man, Jesus. Growing up Methodist, I’m sure we talked about it, but no one I knew kept their Christmas tree up that long. People do in Augusta.
If y’all are anything like us, the trees are nothing more than kindling by December 26th. This is often remedied by getting the tree later than usual. Unfortunately, I don’t usually have the patience. I love Christmas decorations.
I worked at Fat Man’s on and off for about 5 years. As you can imagine, my ornament collection is rather, well, extensive. I have coordinating sets for at least 8 trees, all with different themes. We could have sparkly, woodland, traditional red and green, jewel tones, only silver and gold, candy, Santas only, and I’m sure I could go on and on. The Kids each get a little tree for their rooms, and we have a six foot trim tree dedicated to their nearly ten years of handmade ornaments.
I’m not going to try to lie. I originally started this precious tree, so their toilet paper roll and handprint ornaments wouldn’t junk up my fancy trees. It morphed into one of my favorite trees, but my intentions were less than stellar at first.
After being at the beach for Thanksgiving week, I was motivated to come back and deck our halls. On the nearly 10 hour drive home, I planned the week, from when things needed to come out of the attic, to when we would go choose the perfect tree.
As an aside, we always get our tree at Martinez United Methodist Church. Their Men’s Group runs the tree lot each year, and they are the nicest people, with fresh beautiful trees. We have a hard time deciding, because they’re all perfectly shaped. Once you get on their mailing list, they send you a coupon each year. They sell wreaths and boiled peanuts and always give us a free sprig of fresh mistletoe. It’s no Fat Man’s, but we love supporting a local organization.
When we got home from the beach, life happened. I can’t even remember what kept us busy, but the box of fall decorations still sat at the base of the attic stairs, and the advent calendar was about a week behind. As stupid as it sounds, I almost started to panic.
We host Christmas Eve at our house each year. I cook champagne shrimp, and The Kids read ‘Twas the Night before Christmas. The adults have adult beverages, and the little ones eat candy and run around. I love it. The other day, when I noticed our neighbor’s Countdown to Christmas lawnament said something like 15 days until Christmas, we didn’t yet have a tree. We didn’t have a wreath on the front door.
What on earth was wrong with me? The Kids’ friends’ houses were decorated from top to bottom, and guilt started to set in. The more I put it off, the more daunting it seemed. We finally went to get a tree, but it sat, lightless, in the stand. Sad.
I’m not sure if it was laziness or what, but I had a vision. I wanted a simple tree, with a few strands of lights and our favorite ornaments. For our 7 foot tree, I only used 400 lights. Anyone out there in the Fat Man’s family will tell you that is simply not enough. Believe it or not, the general rule is 100 lights per foot. Seven foot tree? Seven hundred lights. That may sound excessive, but it makes for a pretty magical tree. Not this time.
I grabbed a few strands of lights, loosely wrapping them down the tree. Do you start at the top or bottom? I always start at the top, working my way to the bottom, but last year I learned there are two very distinct schools of thought on this matter.
I told y’all we have a lot of ornaments. Boxes and boxes. I opened the first one, which held many of my most prized ornaments. Each has a story, unlike the matching apple green and fire engine red aluminum balls and rolls of coordinating ribbons. We talked about the ornaments as we hung them and remembered how we got each one.
Decorating the entire tree didn’t take more than an hour. We turned off all the lights in the house, leaving only the glow of our few strands of white lights. It is beautiful and by far my favorite tree yet. Some may call it lazy, but I have a new motto: less time preparing, more time enjoying.
I even decided on a Christmas card photo last night and ordered my cards. You may not get one before the 25th, but they’re coming. If you need me between now and then, I’ll be admiring my perfect Christmas tree. I don’t feel lazy. It’s peaceful. Wishing you and yours the same peace this year. And eggnog. Lots of eggnog. Cheers, y’all!
I don’t always go to Starbucks, but when I do, someone pays for my coffee. Well, not every time, but it seems that way lately. We were out of coffee at home, so I dropped the kids at school and went to the long drive-thru line wrapping around the shop.
“Welcome to Starbucks. How can I serve you today?” She was cheerful, but not annoyingly so.
“Hey! I’ll take a grande non-fat peppermint mocha, no whip.” I felt like a pro.
“Can I add a personal cup for $1 extra? You can keep it, it’s dishwasher safe, and you get 10 cents off future coffee purchases if you bring it with you.”
Sure, why not. I like a travel mug, and it’s only a dollar. The dang coffee was $4 anyway.
After a shorter than normal wait, I got to the window, and the not-annoyingly-cheerful girl said, “Ma’am, your coffee’s already been paid for. Enjoy!”
I’ve heard of such things happening, but hadn’t ever seen it in real life.
“Oh! Wow. Well, can I pay for the person behind me (pleasedon’thaveahugeorder pleasedon’thaveahugeorder)?”
I handed her my card and proudly completed the good deed. The next in line only ordered a grande coffee, so their order cost less than mine. Had I done enough? I decided I had and moved on.
I’ve heard about things like this happening in restaurants and drive-thrus. It hadn’t happened to me, though. I’ll admit to the pressure of continuing the good deed chain, rather than silently thanking my donor and moving on with my day. I should pay for the person behind me. Why, though?
Should we keep it going because it’s our duty? We need to pay it forward? I guess that’s why we should. Wanting to simply do a good deed, without thanks or recognition, is much harder.
This time of year, we’re bombarded with ways to give. The red kettle wants our spare change, soldiers want new, unwrapped toys, angel tree requests must be filled, and canned goods collections are in every church lobby. It’s easy to do good things. It’s just as easy to keep walking, though. We have budgets. If we give to those people, there will be less on our own holiday table.
I think I believe in karma, though it’s tricky. According to online sources, the definition of Karma (mostly for Hindu and Buddhist use) is the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. So, if this is true, we should complete these acts of kindness, because the rest of our life depends on it. It’s not a bad thing to keep in mind, I suppose. A reminder to do good things. We want good things to come back our way.
It’s the random part that really challenges us. How many of you have done something nice for someone, without getting a thank you, and been a little miffed? I’m not talking about a thank you note for a gift. More like, you are there for a friend in need, and they don’t quite express their gratitude in a way that makes you feel appreciated.
Human nature tells us to seek approval. We crave it, usually. I don’t think it’s possible to turn that off, but what if our acts were truly random, like buying someone’s coffee without waiting to see how they react? The things that quickly come to mind all seem to include buying things, like dinner or gas.
A random act doesn’t have to break the budget. It could be as simple as pulling the neighbor’s trash can up from the street each week. But don’t tell them you did it. Can you do it without getting credit for your good deed?
This isn’t a new concept. Heck, there’s a movie about it even. I’m not claiming to have made it up. It’s a challenge. And it has to be random. Like, if someone randomly left a bottle of wine on my front porch, that would count, too. I’ll find a way to pay it forward. I’ll even share a glass. Cheers!
Because I love a list. Especially a random list.
1. My daughter got bitten by a snake last week. Until I heard the details I was worried. Days before, a friend of ours was bitten by a copperhead in his driveway.
2. The Girl wasn’t bitten by a copperhead. The snake was, however, in our house.
3. The Boy told me he loves me more than steak. I asked about bacon. He said “well, you have to understand that bacon is like my favorite food.”
4. We’ve started spending Thanksgiving at the beach. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days anyway, but turkey and dressing taste better oceanfront at sunset.
5. We drove to south Florida. It’s not a bad drive, if you make it in the average estimated time. If you somehow miss the splitting of I-75 and the Florida Turnpike: game changer.
6. Yes there was a GPS in use. When the split happened, we were on a stretch of highway with very, very bad cell phone reception. Our GPS lady temporarily stopped guiding us.
7. We crossed Florida once, going from Jacksonville to the Tampa area. By the time we realized our mistake, we’d gotten back to Orlando. I’m sure central Florida is a lovely place. At night, with two tired kids and two even more tired parents, it just isn’t. Knowing your 9 hour trip will now take twelve prompts a quick search for the corkscrew. (Kidding. We waited.)
8. If with every minute, your predicted travel time increases by 15 minutes, a slight panic is necessary. Maybe a little cussing, too. Earmuffs, kids. Next year, when we win the lottery, we’re flying. Our overstuffed carful of luggage will take its own plane.
9. Last week, someone let their winning lotto ticket go to waste. It expired. 16 million dollars went unclaimed. In Tampa, Florida. The irony isn’t lost on me.
10. I hear we’re having some of the coldest temps so far this year while we’re away from Augusta. As someone who detests cold weather, I’m not at all sad. I won’t brag about the temperatures in Florida. Let’s just say this: it’s warmer than 78 degrees.
11. I don’t mean to offend, but Florida is different from the rest of the United States. There are hundreds of reasons, most of them obvious, but a blanket statement makes the point. It’s not bad, really, just different.
12. We did see some twelve-ish year old girls eating lunch in their itty bitty bikinis yesterday. They were in a restaurant. Florida or not, we would’ve suggested a t-shirt for The Girl. She’s welcome to make her own apparel decisions. If she decides to go to a restaurant in her underwear, she can eat in her bedroom. Her choice.
13. Hanukkah is early this year, right? I read that the concurrence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Depending on the source (or your math skills), the next time this might be possible will be the year 2165. Chag Sameach!
14. We don’t have any iDevices or electronics on Christmas lists this year. It’s not that our house is overrun by such things. For some reason, they simply didn’t make the cut. Don’t be too impressed. The Girl’s list includes a Sleep Number bed, a swimming pool, and a Jeep Wrangler. $16 million in unclaimed lotto winnings, sitting in Tampa.
15. Although Facebook makes it seem season-specific, being thankful shouldn’t be. As Valentine’s Day reminds us to love and birthdays remind us to celebrate, Thanksgiving is a good post-it note. Give thanks. Eat, drink, and be merry with your people. Cheers, y’all!