Wednesday, January 28, 2015

You Have Issues

I was reading an article about birth order today.  Birth order has always intrigued me.  Maybe it's because most people I know fit the mold, to some degree, of where they fall in their family.  Maybe it's because I'm a middle know, the ones who harbor deep seated issues stemming from their less than ideal position in the family.  Or maybe the scab that has grown over the memory of having my older brother hold me down, while my younger brother hit me with a stick in the face, is one that I enjoy picking from time to time.  Whatever the reason for my interest, I have selected it as our topic for the day.  Understand, beforehand, that this post, being written by a middle child, is clearly biased and fraught with bitterness, utter resentment, and unresolved anger.  With that being said, enjoy. 
The Firstborn.  Aren't they so responsible?  Highly motivated, overachievers, they are.  Let's pause a moment and reflect on all the firstborns in our lives and all they do for us, their inferiors.  Firstborns are really a lot like the exceptionally mature only children except their reign was cut short.  Still, they hold fast to the belief that "I was here first" and they don't appreciate your intrusion.

They're Hillary Clinton, Caroline Kennedy, Clint Eastwood, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and yes, Sadam Hussein.  Hey, listen, firstborns...I'm just reporting the facts.  Remember....this is a scientific piece.   

They're the ones your parents always left in charge until they got back from the store and, by doing so, they have since been under the impression that what the parents really meant by that was, "until your death, you will have dominion over all that walk the earth".  This leaves younger siblings across the globe to protest their whole lives, "You are not the boss of me!"  Yes, their early taste of power builds to an insatiable appetite to be in charge later. 

Even as adults, they're the ones, who the parents call when a situation of importance arises......because, after all, they're so dependable and so very wise.  If they call the middle or youngest for advice, it's likely that a pop culture question has come up on their crossword puzzle, they need to ask what channel Dancing With the Stars is on, or "I need to know where your brother is because I have some momentous banking, medical, and legal questions on which my well being, present and future, hinges."  "Oh....ok, Mom.....well, let me know if you ever need help with the border of your jigsaw puzzle or need some envelopes licked, because I'm pretty good at that, you know."            

The younger children are always getting dragged to the firstborn's awards programs. ZZZzzzz.    They're the ones the other kids in the family love to hate.   They always like to please the parents that they spent so much one on one time with before we, the insurgents, arrived.       

Imagine, for a moment, being stuck on an island with John Boy Walton, Marsha Brady, JR Ewing, Frazier Crane, and Julia Sugarbaker.  Of course, if you could endure the bossing for the first couple of days, it wouldn't be long before they would all kill each other in their quest to be in charge and then the island would, once again, be at peace.  

We have to wear their hand-me-downs....their old jackets with their name marked through and ours written neatly underneath and we even risk permanent damage trying to navigate that bar on their old bike until Santa can bring us a girl bike with a girl bar.  The rest of us have to find our own hobbies or achievements because they have already laid claim to being the best at whatever it is they do.  They're the reason teachers assume you'll be good in math, too, and they're the reason those teachers are often sorely disappointed.   They think they can intimidate you with their larger size.....threatening to bend your fingers all the way back if you tell Mom and Dad they broke the lamp.  The little Sadam Husseins.         

The Middle Child.  God bless their hearts.  If parents are busy loading the "baby" in the car to go to the firstborn's honor society induction followed by their Eagle scout banquet, they are likely to get all the way to the school parking lot before they turn around and realize something is missing......the middle child.   Middle children can easily get lost in the shuffle.  We're not the achieving oldest with the trophy case in their room and we're not the adorable baby who smiles under his pacifier while saying, "I wuv you, Mama".  No, we're floating around in that lonely abyss between the two.....the one on the hump in the backseat with scorching metal seatbelts branding GM into both thighs.

We're always being told that we're too old to act like the baby and too young to do whatever the older one is doing.  So, we are left to make our own fun....entertain ourselves.  We can be very independent....I mean, you learn to take care of yourself when, say, your parents forget to put you in the car when they go places.  And we can also be very competitive for obvious reasons....I mean we have to listen to our mothers call roll of all the children she ever knew before she finally gets our name right.  We're also extraordinarily patient because taking turns always meant, "You can go when I get finished and I'll be finished when I say I'm finished".             

Our plight was best summed up by our national spokesperson, Jan Brady......"Marsha, Marsha, Marsha".  We're Theo Huxtable, Sue Heck, Mallory Keaton, Carol Seaver, Laura Ingalls, and about 17 Duggars.   Imagine being in group therapy with some of the celebrity middles.....Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Lopez, David Letterman, Little Richard, Britney Spears, and Madonna.  You might want to pack a lunch.  No unresolved issues, sir.  Coincidentally, we're the only group to have a syndrome named after us.  So, there.          

The Baby.  Aren't they just the cutest?  Oh, I can't even handle how cute they are.  Thing is....even when they're 56, they're still just as irresistible.  Baby status never expires.  Once your mom goes through menopause or has a hysterectomy, your baby status is locked in for eternity....with all of its rights and privileges. 

I know my own mother's eyes light up when she finds out her "baby" is coming for a visit.  He's 6'1" and 39 years old but, when she looks at him, she sees a little boy in 2T overalls on a stick horse.  And when she gets the word that he's coming, her mind goes to work thinking about how many of his favorite dishes she can cram into one weekend.  "We can have fried chicken, lasagna, pork loin, garden peas, mashed potatoes, and coconut cake for breakfast and then we'll have steaks, homemade pizza, beef stroganoff, macaroni and cheese, butter beans, salad, and pineapple upside down cake for lunch....."    

By the time the baby comes, the parents are just tired.  All those rules you had......the minimum dating ages, curfews, car restrictions, etc.....well, they don't feel up to enforcing those anymore.  They're taking Centrum Silver by now.  You want to go to the beach with your 11th grade friends for the weekend?  "Well, I guess so."  You want to take the car?  "Well, you don't even have a permit yet, but I guess so".  You want to date at 11 years old?  "Well, I suppose it will be ok." 

The older kids can protest, "Hey, that's not fair", but no one's listening to them.  They're Bobby Brady, Michelle Tanner, Elizabeth Walton, Beaver Cleaver, and Rudy Huxtable for goodness sake....with their little freckles, pig tails, and adorable inability to pronounce the "r" sound correctly.   My word.....a litter of puppies, a newborn foal, a school of dolphins, and a baby monkey in a dress couldn't compete with that, so you'd be wasting your time to try.  You with your teenage acne and orthodontic headgear.  Nobody cares what you have to say, because.....let's face're just not that cute anymore. 

By the time they come along the hand me downs are stained or dry rotted, the Fisher-Price barn has been sold at a garage sale, all the pieces are missing from the shape sorter except the triangle, and the string of the See 'n Say got so knotted up around GI Joe that it had to be, of course, the baby gets all new things.  Isn't that nice?     

They develop an appetite for entertaining people because they're accustomed to everyone making over them all the time.  Imagine waiting in line on Karaoke night between the babies, John Travolta, Jim Carey, Prince Harry, Ellen DeGeneres, Drew Carry, Eddie Murphy, Ryan Gosling, and Billy Crystal.  You could be a while. 

So, this concludes our study of birth order.  I hope you found it to be as enlightening and factually sound as I did.     

Please, no hateful emails.

Hope y'all have a fabulous weekend!  See you Monday!             


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Recollections of Letting Go

Sadly, Camie Heard, who I wrote about last week, passed away the day after her birthday.      
It's had me thinking back on my own family's experience, because it's nearing the time of year when my Daddy died from cancer....almost six years ago.  His fight with a very aggressive form only lasted a little over a year, but it was a very painful, crippling year for him. 

I can't speak for anyone but myself, but there seems to come a point when you start to realize that the scales have tipped....that this world has nothing else to offer the one you love and there are too many wonderful things waiting on them in the life to come to keep praying the same prayers. You look around the room at the tubes and pumps and struggle and start to weigh the suffering against the awaiting glory and you finally have to concede there's just not much of a contest anymore.   

It's kind of a surreal moment when your prayers shift from healing prayers to mercy prayers.  There is a transition you make one day at that bedside.  You begin pleading for God to come quickly and take the very person who you'd been praying would be healed.  You finally start to see that God's plan is sometimes different than yours. 

Yeah, there can be some anger.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any of that.  There's sorrow.  There's disbelief in the new reality.  Then, there's submission and acceptance.  The older I get, I'm realizing that this life is so very brief in the grand scheme of things and that if God can use a momentary separation for eternal good then He certainly knows best.  We're focused on one page......He's focused on the whole book.   

There's also a strange relief that comes.  The physical pain that they carried around with them each day, you don't realize how heavy it weighed on your own shoulders, too......until the day you know that it's all over.  Your muscles seem to loosen, knowing they're well.  They're free.  They're whole.  Maybe not in the way you wanted or asked, but they are healed.  It's amazing how something can be so devastating and yet so freeing all at the same time.

I guess when it's over, there is the peace that comes from knowing that someone who loves them even more than us has them.  A peace that they have looked into the face of Jesus.....the Jesus who died for them......a coveted moment that we can only daydream about through tear filled eyes.  A peace that they have seen their mother or brother or child or best friend......all those they'd ever grieved for through the years.  There's something awfully soothing about knowing all of that.   

I found a Celine Dion song several months after he died.  She wrote "Fly" for her teenage niece who had cystic fibrosis.  I'd never heard it before, but I found that it described how I felt about letting him go in those last days.  It's about that moment I mentioned earlier......when you look at the one you love and see only a shell of the person that they once were......when you come to the realization that keeping them here would be more about you.....and that there would be nothing in it for them.  It's that point when you're finally ready for them to just go and find their relief .....beyond the reach of time....beyond the grip of pain.....beyond cancer and side effects and fear.......and embrace the wonders that are beyond our imagining......and run toward the irresistible Light that is Jesus.   

Isn't that what love is anyway?  To want what's better for the one we cherish no matter how much it hurts us. 

The song also talks about never forgetting.  "The moon will rise, the sun will set, but I won't forget".  It's a promise that no matter how many times the family sits around the Thanksgiving table without them or how many birthdays pass with no cake that they will still be as present in our thoughts as the day they left.....that their life made a difference and it's worth remembering.   

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him.  I bring him up in conversations.....write about him.......remind my children of things he used to say.....listen to his favorite music.....remember his special days.......even still laugh at his jokes........and beam when others say his name.  It's my way of keeping him close.....and remembered.       

Love trumps death.  Love never forgets.  Love lingers and lingers and lingers.  It may nudge you during a song .....or waft up in a smell.  It may visit in a dream or smile back at you when you look at a photograph.  It may be found in your daughter's eyes or your brother's voice.  It may come up behind you when you're looking at the ocean or cause you do a double take at the mirror.  It may roll down your cheek at the oddest moments.     

It never, ever goes away. 

I don't know how you'd get through the death of a loved one if you didn't believe in the hope of eternal life.  If I thought that I'd never see my Daddy again.....that the day we left him at the cemetery was the end of him and our would I cope? 

There's only one way to a hope that doesn't end at death and that is through Jesus. 

 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying."  John 11:25

If there's one thing that Camie and my Daddy would tell us to be sure of, it might very well be that. 

Please remember the Heard family as they start to adjust to this life without their sweet one.....and have a good start to your week.   

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Not the Socks

Well, I saw the dermatologist for my annual full body checkup this week.  You know I can't resist reporting on anything as humiliating as that.  I mean it's not every day that we find ourselves in awkward situations and I have lived long enough to know that awkwardness breeds discomfort and discomfort breeds insecurity and insecurity often breeds humor.  I know that sounds sort of Biblical, but I can assure you that it is not.       

I had an appointment with a new dermatologist.  The appointment was out of town, so I set out early on what was a most beautiful day, so I could enjoy a long lunch with my precious friend, Michelle, first.  We go back a long way.......all the way back to the 1st grade, so we have done a lot of damage to our skin together through the years.  Friends don't let friends sunburn alone.     

It's always a little stressful, at first, to see a new doctor, but let me just tell you that we got to know each other real quick.  Well, she may know me more than I know her, but still.....we became well acquainted.   

You know the drill.  The nurse comes in and lays out the plan....."Ok, you're going to remove everything from the waist up, oh, and your socks and put on this gown opened to the back."  ............"Wait, What? Go socks?"

You, women, know that we're put through the wringer most of our lives......a lifetime full of appointments where we're stripped of all of our garments.....not a single thread left to hide behind, but we're always, always allowed to keep our socks.  Oddly, they provide a lot of comfort in our time of distress.  Our shield.  I've never been robbed of my socks!    

The dermatologist is one of those appointments when you know you'll need to dig around in your drawer a little longer and find your very newest undergarments.  Some occasions just call for that, you know.  You don't want to be discussed in the clinic break room during the lunch hour.  

Anyway, I had a long time to sit under those clinical strength fluorescent bulbs in solitude while I waited on them to come back in.  They really allow you an excessive amount of time to remove your socks and all.  Plenty of time for self-inspection.  The only other choice I had to pass the time was an outdated Men's Health laying there on the counter.  I decided to go with the self-inspection. "Woah, I've never seen that before"....."My kingdom for some moisturizer"......"I really should've repainted my toes before I came here"........."I just shaved these legs this morning.....where is this stubble coming from?"...."I wonder if I have time to hop off the table, get a mint out of my purse, and hop back on before they get in here".........."Would you look at the size of my pores?"   

Just before I'd finalized my plan to impale myself on the scalpel laid out on the nearby tray, I heard my chart slide out of that thingy on the door.  You know when you hear footsteps that stop abruptly, then hear the chart slide out and pages start're up next. 

She came in along with her assistant.  I don't know.  I think sometimes they just pull people off the street and ask if they want to come along.  At least, there was only one with her......unlike the time my former dermatologist brought in the Dermatology Class of 2013 with him.  Note that I used the word, former.  Why bother with cadavers when you can torment unsuspecting, unclothed, living people?   

Anyway, she began to inspect me like she was the USDA and I was a chuck roast.  She looked carefully at every mole, freckle, age spot, and blemish from my pinky toe to my scalp.  That takes a while when you're dotted like a Seurat painting like I am. 

She looked over the swath of markings and identified each one for me.....using those long doctor words that I couldn't have repeated back to her if my life depended on it.  "Oh, this is nothing to worry about, it is only a sichlemtsydokihtelukdefejhgaseknoma."  (That is a loose translation of what she actually said, you understand)         

She found a couple of moles she wanted to cut off, so I was lying there trying to conceal what "my Mama gave me" as she did her work.  And you know how doctors want to make small talk supposing that it will make you feel more at ease while they're doing goodness knows what.  Well, I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to talk about the price of gas and incoming weather fronts while on my stomach with my legs dangling off a short table in a gown that is open in the back and falling all kinds of forward. 

Anyway, I got that over with for a while.  They say I may have a couple of small scars, but I'm sure Sports Illustrated can Photoshop those right off in my next bikini shoot, so I'm trying not to stress over it too much.

I hope y'all have a great weekend full of sleeping late and laying around in stretchy pants with a good book!  I can't wait to start this one!!!



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

There's this Lady I Know....


So, there's this lady I know.

She's something else.

She's got the brightest eyes you've ever seen.  They're filled with light and love and they draw others to her warmth. 

Her face is covered with a stretches from one end to the other......and, no matter what, you can always find it there. 

She's one of those people who makes all those around her feel they're quite possibly the most loved person ever to be born.  She'll force you to remember her by the way you feel in her is a gift that few possess in this old, selfish world. 

When she walks into a room, it lights up with the brilliance of her cheerfulness and laughter.... her joy is contagious.  You can't help but be happy when she is near. 

Children are drawn to her like bees to honey.  Yes, even little children can discern that she is something extra special.  Memories of her will follow them to the end of their days. 

She carries a positive attitude around like a handbag and an enthusiastic disposition is her companion wherever she goes. 

Kind words flow from her mouth like a fountain.  Her tongue is used for good things. 

She's full of hope, love, and peace......her life's branches are heavy with fruits of the Spirit. 

She exhibits faith in God in every much that it causes those around her to sit up and take notice.  She lives out a confidence that is hard to ignore.....a confidence that God will take care of her in all situations.  She is a living example of what it means to walk by faith for all who are privileged to watch. 

She is one of those people who touches lives and inspires many.  The ripples of her life travel out farther than she knows and the echoes of her influence are heard at great distances. 

If God were to have a list of those who most faithfully point others to Him by the way they live out their days.......she would surely be near the top.  He couldn't ask for a more unswerving witness on His behalf.      

You wouldn't think it, but this lady that I know has cancer. 

She's trudging through the 19th year of tests, scans, blood work, appointments, chemotherapy, surgery. 

She's likely spent more days in hospitals and doctor's offices than all of us combined. 

For 31 years, she faithfully reported for duty at her post as a fifth grade math teacher........many of those years with cancer in tow.  Even though she didn't always feel like it, she was there doing what she was gifted to do....loving children and influencing future generations.....until the day she retired.

The treatments.  The nausea.  

Good reports.  Bad reports. 

Good days.  Not so good days.

The ups.  The downs.

Almost twenty years of the dizzy circling that cancer brings and yet she remains straight and strong and true......and all of the weight that she carries along her uneven path never slows her pace of encouraging others.

It would be the natural reaction to curl into a ball or retreat to the corner of self pity, but she demonstrates every day what it is to get up, put on a smile, strap on the promises of God, and ask Him, who goes before her, to smooth a way in the rough path.  She holds onto those promises with all her might and He has kept them.....every one. 

It was my family's privilege and blessing to have Camie Heard teach both of our children before she retired.  She is a remarkable woman.  There aren't many people who could face the daily, menacing struggles that she's faced for almost two decades and do it so gracefully......and with an influence so beautiful that it must fill God's heart to overflowing. 

She is so faithful to Him.  And He is so faithful to her. 

Today is her birthday. 

The Lord did a good thing for us when He created her.

She is so very loved. 





Monday, January 19, 2015

A Variety of Topics

Well, I was going to post last night, but our power went out at 11:30 and, well, it just seemed like a good reason to call it a night.  The kids were still up, so we all made our way to bed with the help of the modern day oil lamp......the cell phone glow.  Not quite as quaint or "oil painting worthy" as say Laura Ingalls lighting the wintry path to the barn with her lantern for the pre-dawn milking, but work with what you have and we were fresh out of kerosene.   

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but Davis and I have a strong dependency on our white noise machine for a good night's sleep.  I would even go so far to say that it is an addiction and we need help.  We nap with it, travel with it, and will even sit straight up in bed from a dead sleep if it goes off during the night due to a power disturbance.  Yeah, it's really ridiculous. 

Well, since the white noise maker requires electricity and all, I went to bed, but sleep just would not come.  I needed my fan noise.  It was so quiet.  Too quiet.  I could only hear the sound of Davis breathing in and he'd apparently quickly worked through the 12 steps of white noise addiction and was over there sleeping like a champ.  I'd apparently taken for granted the multitude of "breathing" sins that my white noise covers nightly.  

You know how it is when you can't sleep.  You check the time and start talking to yourself......"Ok, if I fell asleep right now, I'd get 6 hours."  Then, you start to think about all the things you have to do the next day and how miserable the lack of sleep will make it.  Panic starts to set in....which only serves to aggravate the problem.  You count down hourly....all the way to......"Ok.....two hours.  If I fall asleep right now and don't wash my hair, I can get two hours.  I can make it on that if I have a Mountain Dew for breakfast, put my head on my desk at lunch, and don't go to the gym."      

Thankfully, I didn't get down to that point.  After a couple hours of counting Davis' rate of respiration as opposed to sheep..... the power came back well as the lights we'd forgotten to turn off....the printer which started printing......the cordless phone and oven which commenced their beeping.....the charging Kindle which lit up our room.....the heater that went to humming.....but, above all, the sound of my white noise.....well, that was just music to my ears.  I drifted right off to a big, overgrown baby with a pacifier.

So, there's that.              

Anyway, Davis had his birthday this weekend.  Blair came home to help celebrate and, of course, she made him a cake.  I've never even been a big fan of birthday cake, but this cake was delicious!  She doubled the flavorings in the icing.  Yum.  It was also completely covered with sprinkles by way of a rolling technique that she used.  And while it was so pretty, the only drawback to the whole thing is that I will have nonpareils rolling around on my floors until Jesus returns.   
As is customary, the birthday boy chose where he wanted to eat and he opted for a fish camp.  "Are you sure that's where you want to go?"......we all asked while trying to hide the curl in our lips.  We hoped we could steer him in the direction of a good, marbled steak or maybe a place that would call for us getting all dressed up, doing...... that's what he wanted and so it came to be. 
And Davis is quite possibly the most difficult person to buy presents for.......with the closest competitor being his father.  Undoubtedly, it is genetic.  We all have those people in our lives.  Those people, who get secretly deposited back into the pot when the family draws names for Christmas.  "No, not him again!.....I had him last year.  It's someone else's turn to deal with that." 

Yeah.....Davis is that person.  But, we did the best we could for someone who never wants anything.  He was happy with his gifts.....I mean, if we had to get him something.   

And we couldn't have ordered more perfect weather for his birthday.  It's been so beautiful here for the last few days!  Sunny and upper 60' we had a great weekend.  A trip to the country.  Walking at the lake.  Caught a movie.  Took a day trip.  Some of us went hiking.......and, by some, I mean....not me.

We had a good time being together and celebrating one of the most selfless, hardest working people we know.   

Hope you all had a good weekend, too!

Happy Tuesday!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Long Days and Short Years

We went to visit my niece and her husband last Friday night.  They have a toddler son and they welcomed a new baby girl over the holidays.  Since we had our extended time of sickness/ infirmity around here, we hadn't seen the baby since the hospital, so we were anxious to visit. 
We walked in and took our turns holding the little bundle of joy.....listening to her grunts and the sweet coos of a newborn.....those precious, little noises that have been replaced at our house with "Shut up, you sick freak" and the like.  We all ate plastic hot dogs and hamburgers that were hot off the big brother's play grill that he'd gotten for Christmas....all of us sounding off the most convincing chorus of, "Mmmmmmm" as we ate the bogus food dressed with the bogus condiments. 

We'd pass the baby and watch her big brother go around and around in circles like a bath towel in the dryer.  You forget about that endless supply of energy that little people have....if only you could harness it some way to power the appliances. 

We patted the newborn's rear in that comforting way and walked and bounced like you do when they're getting upset, stiffening up, and turning all red.  We read "Goodnight, Construction Site", a most riveting bedtime story, and we oohed and aahed over the new big boy bed in the house.  We wiped spit up from the little chin and tried to keep that pacifier from falling out as it was finally doing the trick of keeping her happy.
You have to be on top of your game to take care of little ones.  I mean.....having to jiggle them just the right way and pretend plastic food is the best you've ever had.  They're in constant need of something.  You just don't realize how cushy you have it with your grown children until you hang out with young parents for a while. 

After the bedtime story was read around 8:00, we decided we better head on out, so they could get on with their nightly routine.  We wished them a night of as much uninterrupted sleep as possible at that stage of the game and got back in the car with our big kids......where things were much calmer and more predictable.  We were headed home to, at least, nine continual hours of glorious sleep.  Where no one would need bouncing.  Where everyone could get their own milk.  Wipe their own behinds.  Read their own books.  And where regurgitation would be a rarity.  

As soon as we cranked the car, Carson put on his red Beats in the backseat to escape my iPod that was shuffling the 70's and 80's through the car speakers and Blair was back there texting.  The only way we could be sure they hadn't fallen out of the car was the soft, blue glow coming from the back.....and the tapping of Carson's fingers to the beat, the keyboard clicks from Blair's phone, and a request for a stop at the drive-thru for milkshake. 

I remember the days that our niece is living.  It's a wonderfully trying time.  The joy and pride, but the sleep deprivation.  The cuddling, but the colic.  The first smile, but those loose diapers.  The curious eyes, but the first shots.  Being center of their world, but the day and night mix-up.  The bonding, but those bulb syringes full of who knows what.
Those are days that seem to have no end.  Each day, there is only one get through the next 24 hours alive.  The days pass slowly when someone in the house wants to eat every other hour and poop every hour in between.    

But, those long years in survival mode eventually give way to the school years.  I think of it like the slow climb of the roller coaster just before it tops the hill and starts speeding out of control.....when the first day of school seems like it comes about 5 days after the last day of school and Spring Break....just a couple of weeks after that....tops.  Kindergarten blurs into the fourth grade.....don't blink during the fifth through eighth grades......and the ninth grade.....well, you might as well buckle up because it's the fast track to graduation.  Whew!  The circling years cause dizzy mothers to sometimes stammer at the question, "What grade is your child in now?"   "Um....uh....ok......I know this......give me a minute."

In the blizzard of baseball games, book reports, dance classes, tests, PTA, algebra, and birthday parties, the years start to pile up faster than.................well, Diaper Genie sausages. 

Before you know it, they're in the backseat in their big boy pants tuning you out.

So, enjoy the slow days while you can, young parents.  They're awfully long.....but so, so precious.     





Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Love of Siblings

Well, after being home for exactly one month, Blair drove off today.  The house has this strangeness about it.  Something is missing.  Maybe it's the light coming from her room.  The extra car in the garage.  The sound of her laughter.  The smell of hot cider.  The hiss of aerosol hair products.  The continuous sound of Say Yes to the Dress on the television.  Or maybe it's the........        

"Carson, you forgot to flush the toilet, you sick, little freak!" 
"Mom, tell Blair to quit getting her nasty, long hairs all over my sink!"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhh..........if you shoot me in the face with that stupid Nerf gun one more time, I'm going to ram it down your throat!" 

"Shut up, Blair.  When do you go back to college?" 

Oh, the sounds of love being exchanged betwixt all those who have once occupied my uterus.  There is nothing that warms a mother's heart more than hearing the fruits of her loins interacting in loving kindness.  For one solid month, I have not been able to hear myself think over here.  They were either on one extreme or the other.....laughing together so hard that tea would dribble out of their noses or malice with intent to kill.    

We'd kind of gotten used to the calm and tranquility that having only one child at home brings.  I'd forgotten what it was like when they're both here for an extended period of time.  And yes, let me answer some questions that are being asked in your "children" are 20 and 14.  And yes......they're too old to behave this way.  And is a reflection of poor parenting.

When Blair got ready to go today, though, they hugged and hugged and hugged some more.  Carson's already commented that he misses her.  There is love deep down in there.  They've just got to dig for it, sometimes.        

You have to admit one can irritate you more than your brother or sister.  No one. 

My big brother, Zane.....well, he was a barbarian.  He was always cleaning some kind of varmint that he'd killed and terrorizing me with its carcass.  He was either sweaty or muddy or bloody or all of the above.  He ate more than a herd of pregnant goats.  He could make you wish to never step foot in the hall bathroom again.  His pastimes included, but were not limited to, giving Charlie Horses, tickling me until I wished he was dead, pulling my fingers all the way back until I said, "yes, sir", and running toward me with reptiles and arachnids.  He is the reason I eat fast, flinch at sudden movements, and have a high tolerance for bad smells.  Thank you, Zane.          

My little brother, Lee.....well, I probably owe him an apology.  He could be a little annoying, but I made him the butt of all of my jokes and an unsuspecting prop for my deprecating comedy skits when I had friends over.  I suppose I was working out my own sibling frustrations and suppressed desire for revenge.....even if it was misdirected.  Then there was that thing I did when I'd tell him that he was found under a bridge when he was a baby and that our parents adopted him.  If he were to undergo hypnotic therapy now, my name would probably come up a good bit.  He does have a highly developed sense of humor now and I like to think it is the fruit of my sowing.....his coping mechanism, if you will.  You're welcome, Lee. 

Despite our unsavory behavior toward each other, we all grew up to be very nice people.  A little warped.....maybe a bit scarred from the emotional and physical abuse we heaped on each other......but, still......nice people.

Brothers and sisters.  They're the closest replicas of our DNA.  The ones we'll sit across from at the Thanksgiving table until we die.  The birthdays we'll always remember.  Collaborators on Mother's Day gifts.  Only people on earth who share the same growing up experience.  Always good for a round of "Remember When".  Partly responsible for making us who we are.  And always ready to beat up anyone else who treated you as badly as they did......terrorizing you was a privilege reserved only for them.  

We got spanked together.  Bathed together.  Conjured up cover-up stories together.  Rolled our eyes together.  Got photographed together.  Hid evidence together.  And pooled our coins to buy crappy birthday gifts together.
No one will ever irritate you like a brother or a sister, but then one will ever love you like one either.   
Happy Monday to y'all! 

And to my you, boys.     


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Every Day Can't Be Like Christmas

As I do almost every day, I got on the scale this morning.  I went through the motions of tapping it with my foot.....waiting for the zero to appear and then stepping on.  It goes through this whole blinking thing that it does.....I suppose a stall tactic it uses while it calculates........and then, finally that big moment came and it says....."LO".  It had never said that before.  At first, I thought, "Well, how sweet"!  I guessed maybe it was trying to say, "Girl, your weight is LO!....Look at you!!" scale talk.  So, I stood there a second and waited to see if more compliments would appear on the digital maybe a "WOW" or a "HOT", but soon realized it was referring only to its waning button cell battery.  You know that awkward moment when you thought your bathroom scale was flirting with you when, in reality, wasn't at all.     

Later, I ran to the grocery store and made the horrible mistake of not getting a shopping cart.  You've all been there.  You're just going in for three things and a cart would be sooooo unnecessary but, by the time you make it to the register to check out, you're holding 3 cans of diced tomatoes between your knees, a 2 liter Sprite under one arm, 10 lbs. of red potatoes under the other, a tub of butter clinched with your chin, two handfuls of family size cereal boxes, a frozen turkey breast dangling from the crook of your arm by its plastic netting, a bag of Party Size Ruffles in between your teeth, a gallon of 2% milk suspended from your left pinky, and your right index finger hooked through the plastic of a 72 double roll pack of Quilted Northern.....all while rolling a watermelon with your foot.  You finally find a checkout lane with no wait and you collapse onto the conveyor belt in exhaustion, flinging your items wherever they might fall.  One day, you'll learn you should never bypass the shopping carts.  Ever.

If the imaginary advances of my bathroom scale and shopping cart remorse were the two most noteworthy parts of my day then I should just let you go and not hold you here any longer.  I won't get into telling you about my much needed haircut, the laundry marathon I ran, or how long the 9x13 Pyrex dish had to soak in the dishwater after supper tonight.  We'll save that for another day.  Let's not have all our fun at once.    

Looking forward to the weekend.  Maybe something exciting will happen! 

Hope you have a good one, too!    



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reality Makes Its Return

Well, Carson and I go back to school and work tomorrow.  Blair started working and getting some field experience hours this week before she goes back to school this weekend and Davis has been working off and on until he resumes his normal schedule on Monday. We're all trying to gear up to make our reentrance into real life.  There are those couple of weeks there between Christmas-ish and New Year's-ish when the whole world seems to be in limbo.  It's a unique time of year in which we all put it in neutral, rest from the weariness of the season, and repeatedly ask each other, "What day is this?"  That first morning back to reality is always a slap in the face though. 

With the kids being out of school, I've been off a lot more than usual, myself.  We've been going to bed....oh, around 1:00 a.m. and getting up just about the time our skin had started to graft to the mattress.....usually that awkward hour when you can't really decide whether you should eat breakfast or just hang on a minute or two and have lunch.  Really, you could go either way.  There's no right or wrong answer at that hour. 

After we'd eat breakfast or lunch or brunch, we'd sit around and try to get awake.  You know after you sleep for 10 hours, it takes a while for your body to wake up and adjust to things such as consciousness, uprightness, and light.  We'd usually sit staring blankly at the TV screen and before we knew it, we'd find ourselves hooked on some three hour documentary about something like the lifecycle of the Mongolian Poplar tree or the migratory patterns of the ruby-throated hummingbird.  Changing the channel seemed way too complicated and involved considering our degree of sleep hangovers and all.

By the time we would finally get showered and dressed, it would be afternoon.....and I use the word, "dressed", in the loosest of ways.  I don't know about where you live, but it's been very cloudy, rainy, and cold around here and that has done nothing but fuel our idleness.  It's been a while since we've put on pants that weren't either made of flannel or held up with a drawstring.  Bras have been optional.  Makeup......nah.  We did make an exception for church Sunday.....let me just be clear on that.   

I had all of these grand plans about cleaning and organizing the house during my time off.  In my mind, I was going to clean those places that have been neglected like under the refrigerator, the return air vent, behind the toilets, and the baseboards under the know, those places that only mother-in-laws would think to look.  Did I get any of that done?  That would be a no, no, no, and a that order.  I was also going to do my annual household purging and activity that brings me great pleasure.  Did I get that done?  Psssshhh.  The only things that were purged were any thoughts of cleaning anything........except my plate.        

Which brings up the whole issue of holiday eating madness.  You know how you have all those goodies sitting around in Christmas tins and those storage containers that your mother uses to send things home with you after you've eaten at her house.  You have all these wonderful things, you only get once a year, sitting around and it would be a shame to let it go to waste.  After all, you convince yourself that you'll start doing better when you get back in a routine.  You start eating things like cheese straws, Martha Washington balls, and divinity for breakfast and, by January, you don't see what's so wrong with that.  I'm pretty sure the kids have dug a breakfast or two out of their stockings.  It's just what you do when it's Christmas break and you have a neglectful mother.

When a people group has descended this far into the pit of sorry-ness, it is not a quick or easy ascension back to a life of productivity and fruitfulness......but.....tomorrow, we will begin the climb into real life where people actually contribute to society and........well.........wear pants.  We may have a couple of dry runs tonight with the alarm clocks.....reacquaint ourselves with all those foreign buttons.

It's time for our idle hands to shut down the "devil's workshop" and get back to work.   

Be sure to speak if you see any of us tomorrow.  You can't miss us......we'll be the ones squinting at the sunlight, confused about mealtimes, and borderline catatonic until around noon.  By Friday, we should be fine and start blending in with society. 

Hope your transitioning back into post-Christmas life is without incident.

Happy Wednesday!!       


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Cheerful Givers

Every Friday, Carson slides a $20 bill into his wallet.  He gets an allowance each week and, in return, we expect him to do his chores, work hard in school, and obey all the rules around here.  Some parents might call it bribery.  We like to think of it as a little pocket cash that helps him learn about managing money, saving, and responsibility.   

He'd been careful not to spend any of his money for the last few months because he was saving for a new paintball gun that he's been wanting really badly....that kind of longing that had him reading about it, looking at it online quite a bit, and talking about it to anyone who would listen.  It would be a purchase that would take a good bit of saving.

The Christmas season rolled around and we all got busy with our going and doing and shopping and such.  The tree was decorated and was becoming hemmed in by all the gifts.  The Christmas cards were rolling in, the oven was baking more than usual, and the scissors and tape dispenser were getting quite a workout.  One afternoon in all the bustle, Carson quietly asked his Daddy if he could drive him to the mall.  Before they left, he went back to his room and slid his leather wallet into his back pocket and they crept out of the house.

Davis drove where he was directed.  Stop after stop, Carson knew exactly where he wanted to go and what he needed there.  One twenty dollar bill at a time, his longtime accumulated savings, set aside for something he really wanted, was being spent on buying things for his family.....on things he knew they'd really like. 

Not only were the gifts nice, but they showed quite a bit of thought.  Blair had casually mentioned a couple of months ago that her travel mug was leaking.  He remembered that and bought her the nicest MSU insulated coffee cup that money could buy along with a few other girly gifts from other various stores.

He knows how much I love the soap and hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works, so who got the very biggest gift basket that they sell there?  That would be me.  Davis stood back and observed how he asked the salesperson which fragrance was the best, but then personally sampled all the scents just to be sure he agreed with her opinion.  He also couldn't help but notice his inability to pass up the add-on gifts near the register or the pure joy on his face as he shopped......spending the progress he'd made toward his own want for the benefit of others. 

A week or two later, I helped him with his shopping for Davis at the sporting goods store.  He knew just what he wanted to get.  The pocket knife that was "on the right side of the shelf....with the dark wood handle".  It was the one that he remembered Davis admiring.   He had his list and there was no talking him down from it.  After insisting I drive him to get some of those high dollar wool socks that he knows his Daddy likes to go along with the knife and a thoughtful gift for all of his grandparents, his wallet was as empty as the day he got it.......but I've never seen him happier or more excited.

This year was the first time his Christmas shopping wasn't done with our money and you could see in those ocean blue eyes that he'd discovered joy of sacrificial giving.  The anticipation of giving us those gifts was what he looked forward to the most this Christmas season.  I can honestly say that.     

Late Wednesday afternoon, I was at work and one of our nice, older customers was there getting her prescriptions.  She was in some sort of uniform and had, from all appearances, just finished a long, hard day at work. As she was leaving the store, she stopped and told those of us working in the gift shop that, if we knew anyone who was sick, elderly, or down on their luck, she was available to clean houses free of charge.  She went on to explain that her pastor had been preaching that we should all find something that we're good at and do it to help others.  She noted that she couldn't do a lot of things very well and she didn't have a whole lot to offer, but she was good at cleaning and enjoyed working with her hands.  As she used her hands to talk to us, you could seen the age and the labor on them.  They didn't sparkle with a fresh manicure or any kind of shimmering jewelry......they were just a pair of worn, willing hands that were being offered to anyone who needed them.   

Here was a lady in the kind of work uniform that would indicate that she didn't make a lot of money and that her job probably required a lot from her physically but, after a long day of labor, she was trying to find someone who could benefit from what little she had to offer. 

She was pointed over in the direction of one of our favorite elderly customers, who is 99.   He and his wife still live at home.  He is the healthiest of the two and is trying his best to maintain their independence all by himself.  He was thrilled with her offer, but she was even more thrilled to find him.  She left so excited about having a house to clean....for free.      

It's a new year and I've been thinking about all of that.  What would happen if we all lived sacrificially for each other?   How many of our world's problems would disappear?  What if we all gave up more of our wants and time to make someone else's life better?  What if we all thought less about us and more about "them"?

The new year issues us all a new, blank book.  It has 365 empty pages and we can do with them as we please.  Some days, our pages are written for us......things happen that we can't happens.  But, then there are days when it's all up to us.  We can make the chapter about whatever we choose.  We can fill the pages in with us or we can make our story so much more than that.

I want to have the giving heart of a 14 year old boy who spends his paintball money at Bath and Body Works of all places......and the willingness of a tired, working lady who's eager to go another mile if someone needs her.

I want to make my pages to count. 

Happy Monday!  It's good to be back!