Monday, February 29, 2016

Sick Days

Today, Carson came home from school sick with fever.  He's been trying to get sick for a week or two now.  I don't know if y'all say that where you're from but, down here, if someone has been feeling puny for a while, we say that they've been trying to get sick.  Just a little cross-regional translation, FYI.   

Anyway, I was in the grocery store when he texted me to tell me he had fever and was achy, so I started throwing some of his favorite things into my shopping cart.  Isn't that what mothers are supposed to do?  Juice, coke, popsicles, ice cream, chips and salsa.   

I remember when I was young and would get sick.  In a strange and twisted way, it was something that I didn't mind all that much.  The obvious reason.....no school.  But, mostly because of all the attention my mother would lavish on me.  It was the only time you were served meals in bed around our house.  She'd come in and check every few minutes to see if your glass needed a refill.  It was also one of the few occasions when we had soft drinks around.  My mother was obviously under the impression that a little Coke or Sprite had medicinal value and should only be administered when ill and at the holidays.  When we were sick, it seemed like she was more concerned than usual with what sounded good to us and would fix whatever we thought we could eat.  There was more doting and patting and fetching than usual.  Basically, if you could deal with the discomfort of your symptoms, being sick around my house was a lot like being at the spa or something pretty special like that. 

I guess we mother the same way we were mothered.  Tonight, I took Carson's supper to his bed and propped up his pillows.  I've asked him if he wanted more Coke or a popsicle.  I made him a snack and took him the lotion infused Kleenex. Took his temperature with the thermometer and then with the Mom method.  You know the drill.......a lingering kiss to the forehead which is followed by a cheek to the temple and then the other cheek to the other temple all while feeling both sides of the neck simultaneously.  With this four checkpoint system, a mother can estimate her child's fever within a tenth of a degree.  True.

I remember there was the downside of being sick, though.  When I was little, if you were sick enough to stay home from school, you were going to the doctor.  Simple as that.  And, back in the day, they doled out shots for everything.  Everything! 

I remember sitting out in that waiting room.  In my mind, I can still imagine the way that building smelled.  It was an odd mixture of rubbing alcohol, floor wax, manila file folders, and wooden tongue depressors.  My mother, being a germaphobe, always sat us next to the door so that, at least, we would get a burst of fresh air when someone would come in.  Looking back, I'm wondering if that didn't just expose us to every disease that walked by but, still, she preferred that spot to the inner bowels of the waiting area.  And the playroom?  Forget about it.  That's where the kids played whose mothers didn't love them or care if they touched snotty trucks or the telephone that had boogers all over the numbers. The books had all been touched and read by sick people, too, so she would just read it to us....usually from the Children's Storybook Bible.  It was hard to concentrate on the Word of the Lord when I was busy weighing my odds of getting a shot in my little mind.  "Ok, I've got high fever and a bad sore throat......so there's little chance of getting out of here without being harpooned unless there's a fire or something awesome like that."   

Finally, after what seemed like hours of torture watching the seemingly happy, infectious children in the playroom, they'd call my name over the garbled speaker.  Oh, nothing made my heart pound like that.  Would they send me down the long, winding hall to have my finger pricked?  Would they stab me with one of those dreadful penicillin shots?  So many "what ifs" hanging over my head as I followed the nurse to the back.  This was when nurses had the hats, skirts, white panty hose, and white leather shoes.....and they were all business and no play.     

The nurse would point us into a room and follow us in and then ask my mother what was wrong with me.  She'd start to rattle off my symptoms and I remember I always wanted her to tone it down a bit. You know.....not make me sound so sick that I'd end up limping out of there.  The nurse took her notes and would get a gown out of the drawer and leave the room with instructions for us.  I'd put the gown on and jump up on that crinkly paper.  It was cold.  I felt lousy.  My nerves all aflutter.   We'd wait and wait and wait and wait.  I'd hear the doctor's voice several doors down and then I'd hear it get closer......one door at a time.  Seemed like a lot of screaming and crying got closer as he did.  Didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. 

Finally, he'd come in and his deep voice would seem to vibrate the whole room.  He'd look in all the openings of my head.  My mother would, again, pipe up with her insistent description of how bad I'd felt and I'd furrow my brow over in her direction.  He'd send me down to the finger pricking department and then back to wait in the exam room.  This was the crucial moment, right here.  The moment when the numbers would tell the story.  When they would come back and indicate if it was either viral or bacterial.  Oh, please, Lord, let it be a virus.  But, nine times out of ten......no such luck.  He'd come in with the lab numbers and speak to my mother in this language that I didn't understand but what I did understand was when he rolled his little stool over to the door, opened it, and yelled out to the nurse, "We need so and so CCs of penicillin in here."  Well, that, I understood. 

He'd leave the room and that's when I'd start crying.  "I don't want a shot, Mama."  She'd assure me that it would be over quickly and how much better I'd feel.  Oh, yeah.  A nail gun to the rear always makes you feel so good.  Then, she'd start to ask me what I'd like her to fix me for dinner and remind me of my favorite shows that would be on when we got home.  You know.....the motherly distractions that we use in times of distress.  I mean, she had to talk about something because it took the nurse forever to get her dart gun loaded.  This was well before the those new little needles came on the scene that they use today.  No, these were more like 8 penny nails.  You could roof a house with those things.  I could hear her rubber soled shoes coming closer to the door.  Squeak, squeak, squeak.  She couldn't sneak up on you with those on.  My heart was beating up into my sore throat at this point.  She'd swing the door open, armed with the alcohol, a Band-Aid, and a shot that looked like a turkey baster and instruct me to roll over on that crinkly paper.  She reared back and would stab me in the hip with, what felt like, all her might.  "AAaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!  And as a peace offering, she'd hand me a red sucker that seemed to taste oddly similar to Robitussin and, with tears rolling down my face, I'd limp out of there like I'd just had a hip replacement. 

That pediatric office was landscaped with the old school holly bushes.  Not these new, soft holly varieties but the ones that would draw blood with their Satanic tips.  I thought that was such an unwelcoming shrubbery with which to line the sidewalk of a pediatrician's office but, looking back, I recognize their foreshadowing and symbolism qualities.                                   

Tomorrow morning, I'm taking Carson to the doctor.  They don't seem to do shots as often as they did in my day.  If he does get one, it will be with one of those tiny needles they use where the nurse has to tell you when she's done.  Back then, there was no question about when she was done.  Either way, I will take care of him the way my Mama took care of me.  I will fix his Coke and feel his head and ask him what he feels like eating.  I will do all those things that were done for me.  And I will enjoy it as much as my Mama did.  And in some strange way, he will, too.   


Y'all have a great day, friends.     
 
         

Friday, February 26, 2016

Moms Censored

So, Blair sends me this yesterday.......
It's times like those when a mother has to remind herself of the truths from God's word,  "Children are a gift from the Lord.....Children are a gift from the Lord.....Children are a gift from the Lord."       

It's true, though.  We, moms, generally have two levels of parenting.  One is a more polite form which is used in social or public settings.  The tones are warmer and the words are more carefully chosen for a broader audience.  It gingerly handles parenting matters with a palatable candy coating.  It dances lightly around the issue at hand in a way which is aesthetically pleasing to all who see.  This surface level is usually not adequate to express the depth of parental frustration and so it is often used in conjunction with inconspicuous nonverbal cues which are given to signal to the child the seriousness of the parent's displeasure, e.g., raised eyebrows, a pinch under the table, or a subtle shaking of the head.  I mean, most of us do try to class it up for the sake of southern gentility, proper decorum........oh, and the Department of Child Services. 

The second level of parenting is a more raw and less edited version.  It is used when the child and parent are at home or alone where the problem can be discussed more freely and constructively and without witnesses......oops, I mean, onlookers.  Sometimes, these parental threats may or may not be worded to Dr. James Dobson's liking nor are they always executed with the patience with which Fred Rogers would be pleased but, for generations, impressive results have been achieved at this home based level of parenting. 

Here are some examples of things our Moms said to us at home and her corresponding public wording of them.       

At home:  "I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week."  I never really knew what that meant exactly but I knew that it must be a pretty hard hit to hurl you forward several days.  It was really serious when it was only Monday and she said that because she was talking about displacing you by a week and a half!  I think that the only time I've personally used this one was that half-year, somewhere between 13 and 14, when Blair suffered from a brief period of delusional authority and, on several occasions, forced me to attempt to catapult her forward into time.....and space. 
In public:  "We'll talk about this when we get home," said with a solid pinch to the thigh.
 
At home:  "If you don't stop that crying, I'm going to give you something to cry about."  It was always so hard to stop crying when someone was telling you to stop crying or else they were going to make you cry.  Wait, what?  You were so confused at that point that you just cried more.        
In public:  "Dry it up," said with raised eyebrows.   

At home:  "Look at me when I'm talking to you" and its first cousin, "Don't walk away while I'm talking to you."  Oh, nothing infuriates a mother like acting like you don't listen, care, or have time for her lecture.  It would not be out of the question to have your face manually moved toward her direction at this point in the discussion.   
In public:  "We'll talk about this when we get home," said with a firm squeeze to the upper arm.   

At home:  "As long as you live under our roof, you'll follow our rules."  This was another way of saying, "You will not stand there in those shoes I bought, eating that Twinkie I bought, holding the car keys I bought while using the electricity I bought and tell me how it's going to be."   
In public:  "We'll talk about this when we get home," said with squinted eyes.   

At home:  "You better answer me when I ask you a question."  An unanswered question will not fly during a mother's interrogation.  There is no Fifth Amendment in Mama's world.  That's only in America.  Mama don't play by those rules.       
In public:  "We'll talk more about this when we get home," said quietly through gritted teeth.   

At home:  "Don't make me stop this car!"  Oh, if your mother had to pull over because of a dispute in the backseat, it was not going to be pretty.  I can remember an arm coming over the top of that white vinyl, front bench seat and it would just go to slapping legs.  Didn't matter whose they were.  Just slapping whatever it could reach. 
In public:  Or if someone else was in the car....."Kids, I'm not going to tell you again."    

At home:  "I brought you into this world and I can take you out."   This was, basically, a glorified death threat in which the mother established her powers as judge and jury to administer the death penalty as she saw fit.  It was never out of the realm of possibilities to hear a small sermonette inserted here on how many months she spent slumped over the toilet before she slowly and painfully extruded you from her womb only to be kept awake for the next 3 years straight.  I may or may not have brought up Carson's colic a time or two at opportune times.     
In public:  "We'll talk about this when we get home," said while firmly squeezing child's hand.   

At home:  "You better wipe that smile off your face before I do." If you want to infuriate your mother, just smirk while she's correcting you.  You will awaken a fury in her that you didn't know existed.  I believe the original text read, "Hell hath no fury like a woman smirked".....especially during the pre-menopausal/menopausal years.  I foolishly engaged in this behavior as a teen.  I should have a t-shirt printed that says, "I survived smirking at my menopausal mother.  Want to see my scar?"          
In public:  "You think you're so cute, don't you?" said with a furrowed brow.   

At home: "I'll treat you like an adult when you start acting like one."  This is a more concise way to say, "Adults pick up their own stuff and cook their own food and wash their own clothes and pay their own bills, therefore, you don't qualify for their benefits at this time.   
In public: "We'll talk about this when we get home," said while shaking head with displeasure. 

At home:  "You're not going to tell me what you will or won't do" which can be used interchangeably with "Don't give me that attitude."   This is, on occasion, followed by something like.... "You see this muffin top?  This gray hair on my head?  These bags under my eyes?  These wrinkles on my forehead?  I haven't bought anything new for myself since the day you were born and have given you the last piece of pie since you started eating real food, so you will not stand there and tell me what you're not going to do because that's not how this works."     
In public:  "We'll talk about this when we get home," said with a look of great disappointment.

At home:  "I'm going to snatch you baldheaded."  This threat is meant to express a level of frustration so deep that baldness may have to be called in to satisfy it.  It was always best to stay, at least, an arm's length away from her after this one was thrown out there. 
In public:  "We'll talk about this when we get home," said while firmly stroking the child's hair.   

So, yeah, we, mamas, can be nicer in public, sometimes. 

Just like our mamas taught us.
  



Y'all have a good weekend!               

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It's All Fun and Games

I saw a retro picture on Facebook of some kids playing Red Rover.  I'd forgotten all about that game.  I started trying to remember all those old games we use to play when we were kids.  You know, the ones that didn't come from a store.  I'm a sucker for nostalgia so I thought we'd talk about some of those today!  I'm so excited!

1)  Let's just start with Red Rover.  "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Suzy right over."  You remember how you did when they called your name?  You sized up the line trying to find the weakest link through which you could hurl your body.  The gaunt, little boy who always had a nosebleed and the girl who was real prissy and screamed at roly polies.....well, if you could find the two of them holding hands, then that was your ticket through.  You'd back up and run as hard as your little legs would take you right toward their outstretched arms.  I was always a target because of my spindly physique (I was called Bony Joni....affectionately, I'm sure) but they soon learned that I'd let them dislocate my shoulder before I let go. 

2)  Mother, May I?  Oh, I loved this game!  "Steve, take 5 baby steps.......Mother, may I?......Yes, you may.......Holly, take two giant leaps."  Oh, the power!  What a rush to be able to tell the boy who was always pulling your hair that he forgot to say, "Mother, may I?"  This game and Simon Says fueled our desire to lord over others and gave us a thirst to mold them into our submissive subjects.    

3)  Doggie, Doggie, Who's Got the Bone?  This game really helped us hone our lying and thievery skills.  I mean if you're going to play a game with children, let it, at least, teach them a life skill in the process. Some lucky person was chosen to sit in the chair with a bone placed under it......or a block or any other available substitute......and the teacher picked someone to go and steal the bone.  Quietly and stealthily, he'd creep up to the chair and take the bone and go back and sit down.  With our hands behind our backs, we'd all chant, "Doggie, doggie, who's got the bone?  Somebody stole it from your home."  The dog would turn around and get three guesses as to who stole her bone.  I feel like the Doggie, Doggie champions from elementary school are now, oddly enough, politicians and used car salesmen but I digress.

4)  Red Light, Green Light.  The person who was "it" turned their back to the line of kids and yelled, "Green light!"  Everyone would run toward her until she yelled, "Red light" and turned around quickly.  Anyone caught still moving was sent back to the start.  This game was especially enjoyable when played at the skating rink.  It helped us develop our braking skills.   

5)  Follow the leader.  This game was especially fun when played on bicycles.  If the leader popped a wheelie, then you did, too.  If the leader turned her handle bars around backwards and rode zig zag down the hill, then you did, too.  And if, say, the leader put her feet up on her banana seat, rode with no hands with her eyes closed, and zoomed into oncoming traffic then you better do it, too.  Follow the Leader embodied the age old parental question, "If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?" .....and put it into game form.
 
For anyone who's interested, this was just like my old ride....color and all.  Look at those lines. 
That aerodynamic body.  The pimping wheels.  The ombre' paint job. 
 Built to endure.  Easy on the eyes.   

6)  Paper football.  You remember how you'd fold a piece of notebook paper into the triangle and get 4 tries to thump it down the table and get it to hang off the end without falling over for a touchdown?  Pure skill is what that took, let me tell you.  Of course, the extra point was thumped through the uprights which was formed by your brother's thumbs and pointer fingers.  It was football at its finest.  The girl version of paper fun was the paper fortune teller which proved to have unremarkable accuracy. 

7)  HORSE.  Horse was for those of us who liked to shoot basketball but didn't like to actually play basketball.  More often than not, the backboard was made from a sheet of plywood that somebody's dad had cut out with a ratty net clinging for dear life from the rim.  You'd attempt a shot and, if you made it, the other person would have to make the same shot or they'd get a letter.  Whoever spelled horse first was the loser at which point they'd suggest playing HORSES. 

8)  Dodge Ball.  Was there any better way to work out your frustrations than that?  To peg a friend in the side of the head so hard that the parquet design of the playground ball was embossed into his face and he got nauseated and started seeing double.  Usually, the PE teacher knew just how to handle such neurological emergencies though.  "Go get a drink out of the water fountain and splash some on your face.  You'll be fine."  Back in the day, before the "no balls above the shoulders rule", a few good games of dodge ball were what made us who we are today.  

9)  Croquet.  I loved some croquet.  It made you feel all sophisticated like the Englishmen.  You'd set up those wires all around the yard and knock the wooden balls through them.  My favorite part was when you hit someone else's ball and you got to send their ball sailing across the yard by putting your foot on top of your ball and hitting it as hard as you could so that theirs went so far from the playing field that they felt hopeless and despondent.  Good times.  Good times.   

10)  Playing in the sprinkler.  This was the middle class child's answer to the swimming pool.  Who needed diving boards, pool toys, and a filtration system when you had an oscillating lawn sprinkler and a green hose?  This was guaranteed fun for hours.......or, at least, for 14 minutes or so until the grass started sticking to your feet and you realized you couldn't do a cannonball. 

11)  Clapping games and jump rope rhymes.  The girls seemed to be into the clapping games like "Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack all dressed in black, black, black with silver buttons, buttons, buttons all down her back, back, back."   Or you could find us jumping rope to "Cinderella dressed in yellow went upstairs to see her fellow.  By mistake she kissed a snake, how many doctors does it take?"  And, sometimes, the girls just wanted to make clover necklaces.  I never really cared for any of that because, well, only having brothers.  It had to be a pretty slow day on the kickball side of the playground for me to go make a flower chain.  

12)  London Bridge Is Falling Down.  What the heck was that about?  I don't really know but I played it a whole bunch and remember being tossed from side to side during the "Take the keys and lock her up" part.  Ring around the Rosy has some disturbing origins, too.  Thank goodness, while we were happily holding hands in a circle, we didn't know that "Ashes, ashes.... we all fall down" was talking about cremating the children's bodies who'd fallen dead from the plaque.  What kind of sick freak would make a game out of that?  Moving on.          

13) Musical Chairs.  Everyone loved a friendly, little round of Musical Chairs.  It was all fun and games until it got down to two of you and one chair.  You'd slow way down as you passed the chair and run back around again. "Get your hands off the chair and keep moving!" the teacher would always yell.   

14)  Hide and Seek.  This was always my least favorite game because of my brothers' affection for jumping out and scaring me to death.  If the seeker didn't suffer cardiac arrest when she found them then they thought it was just a big ol' waste of time.  When you live with brothers, you learn to live in a state of constant anticipatory fear which causes an overactive startle reflex for the rest of one's natural life.  This may explain my strong aversion to Jack in the boxes, haunted houses, and pop up toasters.
  
Deciding who went first by picking a number between 1 and 10, heads or tails, drawing straws, or paper, rock and scissors.  The days of captains picking teams.  The sound of my Daddy whistling us home for supper.  Playing outside until the crickets started chirping and you just couldn't see anymore.  Mosquito bitten legs.  Cut off jean shorts.  Playing grocery store and cops and robbers.  Hopscotch.  Blind Man's Bluff.  Freeze tag.  Marbles.  I Spy.  Mud pies.  The Hokey Pokey.  Throwing a tennis ball on the roof and catching it.....over and over and over again.   The sweet juice from honeysuckle blossoms.  A pocketful of sour crabapples.  Red Kool-Aid.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Bactine and iodine. Band-Aids on both knees.   

Those were the good ole days when our only job was to play.  The only time constraint we had was dictated by the duration of sunlight.  The only worries we had were peeling the crust off our sandwich, digging the "stickers" out of our feet, and finding clothes pins for our bike spokes. 

What wouldn't we do to go back for just a couple of weeks of that? 

We might never want to come back to adulting. 
                              

What do you remember playing? 
                                  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ordinary Days

Most of us grow weary of ordinary days, especially, when they come in long, winding strings that seem to go on forever and ever.  The mundane, repetitive tasks that we perform each and every day.  The established sequence of our coming and going.  The same ole, same ole.   

Most days, we go along with little deviation from the routine.  We get up at the same time.  Make the coffee.....one sugar and a creamer.  Feed the dog her usual fare.  Shower with the same soap and the same shampoo and get dressed.  Eat breakfast.....a bowl of the same cereal and a glass of the same juice.  Take the kids to school and give them the same reminders as they get out of the car.  Drive to work taking the usual route while listening to the same morning show.  Sit at the same desk.  Answer the phone and hear the same questions.  Read the typical emails.  Attend a meeting to discuss ordinary stuff.  Order the usual from the deli down the street.  Work a little more before driving home at the same time.  Fix dinner....one of the 6 recipes from our normal rotation.  Clean the kitchen.  Help the kids with homework.  Correct them for the same behaviors.  Do the laundry.  Do the usual exercise routine.  Watch the same shows on TV.  Go to bed at the same time.....right after the news.  And wake up to do it all again. 

Sometimes, we refer to it as being in a rut.  When we travel the same path everyday, our wheels start to wear away at the ground underneath and we just go along almost without steering.  Most days, we get up, set our wagon on the track, and mindlessly bounce along through the day.  Sometimes, the monotonous route can leave us bored and dazed.  Sometimes, we find ourselves just going through the motions.  Coasting along with our nose to the grindstone.  We may daydream about vacations or more exciting paths that we wish to explore but we know that the worn path is where we'll likely stay most of the time. 

These are the days between the big, heavy stuff that comes our way.  The days when we plug along and don't even realize that we're making a difference.  When we're so numb to the scenery that we don't see that what we're doing is important.  It's in these typical days that our children are raised.  Our careers are defined.  Our legacy is written.  They're the days when memories are made.  When lives are influenced.  When bonds are formed and friends are made and love grows and grows.  There's nothing especially splashy about them.  No headlines to glean there.  Nothing which would cause the world to sit up and take notice.  They're just the days when we can be found faithful to our responsibilities.  Our families.  Our calling.  
  
The other day, we got a wall hanging in at the store.  I loved what it said but I can't remember exactly how it went.  It was about appreciating the gift of an ordinary day.  I suppose, even with all of its ho-hum, the ordinary does have its advantages.  It definitely has its overlooked positives.  An ordinary day means that we didn't receive a life changing diagnosis.  No one in our family went missing.  Our child didn't fall into trouble.  Our husband didn't lose his job.   A storm didn't destroy everything we own.  The house didn't go into foreclosure.  There was no death in our family.  No phone call that took our breath away.

The Bible says there is a time for everything.  "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."  We have fun here on Motherhood and Muffin Tops 95% of the time but joking just didn't feel right to me this week....out of respect for the people I love who are mourning.  I've just gotten home from the funeral for my cousin's wife who I spoke about the other day.  A young mother leaving behind a husband and three children ranging from 2 months to 6 years.  I know many heartbroken people tonight who wish that today had been just another ordinary day. 

Ordinary. Usual. Routine. Typical. 

They sound like music to the mourning heart.         
   
I hope we all wake up to an amazingly ordinary day and I hope that I'll start to appreciate them for the wonderful things that they really are.     

         

       

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Many Faces of Love

We had the most wonderful Valentine weekend!  I could tell you that it was full of romance, roses and a dream getaway but, well, I'd be lying.  No, it was more of what I'd call a family Valentine weekend.  With Blair's boyfriend's baseball schedule having him in Florida all weekend, that brought her home to celebrate Valentine's Day with us.  And that's just what we did.  We had a fabulous family love weekend. 

Love comes to us in so many forms.  

On Friday, Blair and I took my mother out for lunch.  We went to a darlin' little cafĂ© with a Louisiana flair and we even lingered around the red checked tablecloth and ordered dessert.  That's not usually something we allow ourselves do, you know, eat dessert and sip on coffee.   Not naming names, but two of us have high cholesterol and one of us has an hour glass figure which all usually must be considered.  But, that day was different.  We were celebrating.  Celebrating the love between mothers and daughters.

That kind of love is heart to heart.  It's confiding and nurturing.  It never grows old or tired.  It is the means by which valuable information is passed from one generation to another.  It is sacrificial and affectionate and both sides are loyal to their responsibility until death.  Literal blood, sweat, and tears have been invested in it.  It resists turning into one's mother but then it's pretty proud when it does.  It can drive us crazy and touch our hearts all in the same breath.  It shoots straight and discusses just about everything under the sun.  It's a lifelong friend who will never leave your side.  It's a piece of you only better.  It's enjoying being in each other's company.....always able to just be yourself.  It's being incredibly proud of where you came from and giddy with pride over where she's going.  It is a love that knows no boundaries.                  
On Friday night, Davis, Blair, Carson, and I all went out to dinner and for ice cream.  Davis and I sat across from each other.  I remembered we'd been there so many times through the years.  We'd had many dates there before we married and, on this Valentine weekend, we were there again on a different kind of date.  A date with our practically grown children enjoying them, the products of our marriage.  The candlelight between us illuminated a few extra wrinkles and a more receded hairline but the love was still the same. 

The love in a marriage moves forward in unison.  It's a team working toward the same goals.  It changes a lot through the years.  It does a lot of growing up and learning together.  It's trial and error and finding what works and how it all fits.  It's reliable companionship along the way....on the flat places and the steep hills.  It's being in it for the long haul.  It provides and supports and encourages.  It can be hair raising and heart melting and head scratching at the same time.  It's knowing everything there is to know about another person.  It's unselfish and forgiving and will always defend no matter what.  It is a chosen kind of love.  A voluntary promise.   It is the one we select to have on our team.  It's who we want on our side and by it, too.               
On Saturday, we all went on a picnic at a nearby lake.  After we ate, we exchanged Valentines.  Carson brought out a gift he'd bought for me.  It was a stuffed animal and some dark chocolate.  When I was a little girl, stuffed animals (not dolls) were my thing so it really was the sweetest gift.  He was also careful to go to my "chocolate drawer" to see what kind I preferred before he went shopping.  To say he is thoughtful would be an understatement on a grand scale. 

The love between a mother and her son is beautiful.  It is said to be the most heart tugging of the affections.  It is fiercely protective on both ends.  It is gentle and kind and thoughtful.  It is the relationship by which women can judge a man's heart.  And when he finds that one, a mother's place can be hard to relinquish, I hear.  It is always having a fan, a cheerleader, and a person who believes in you with all her heart.  It's being treasured and cared for and having someone pull out her seat atop a pedestal.  It is a ferocious love between a mother and her cub.  A special kind of bond that can't be explained......only felt.  It is pride in its purest form.  It is wanting the very best that life has to offer for another person.     
                                       
The weather was absolutely beautiful and, after our picnic, we went for a 5 mile hike.  I didn't really even mind because we were having such a great time together as a family.  If that's what they wanted to do then I was game.   
 
We ended the day with dinner at my in-laws, the people who raised the man I love.  And that's another kind of love.....the kind of love that teaches a son how to be a godly husband and father.....for the benefit of a little girl who their little boy would meet one day.  The kind of love that models what it means to be a good person and a hard worker......a man of integrity.     

Today, we got word that someone in my extended family was killed in a car wreck this morning.  A young wife and mother of little children.  I haven't thought about much else since I heard.  It made me think about my weekend with family and how I've been surrounded with love on every side.  I thought about how people don't come with any guarantees and life is full of the unexpected. 

We shouldn't put off the visits.  It's best to make the phone calls.  Say the I love you-s.  Express the gratitude.  Spend a little extra time.     

Love comes to us in many forms.  They're all unique.  They're all worth celebrating.  They're all worthy of our recognition.  And they all need to hear they're appreciated. 

And none of them are promised tomorrow. 

Please pray for Douglas and his sweet, little family.              

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Profound Analogy Brought on by Overexertion

I've been working crazy hours.  On the weekends, after hours, and just about every day.  During a normal week, I work about 15-18 hours which is just perfect for me but, for the last few weeks, it's been a whole lot more than that.

It always gets insane after a trip to market.  All the orders I placed for both stores have been arriving and they all have to be checked in, priced and, worst of all, a place has to be found to display it.  So, I've been bouncing from store to store doing just that.  With every shipment, it gets harder and harder to find a spot to put the new stuff.  We've got a lot of merchandise in our little 1,000-ish square ft.spaces.  A large variety, too.  But, when the store gets full, you have to make some decisions.  Some things have to go. 

Tonight, while I was working late again, trying to find an empty nook or cranny large enough to wedge new merchandise into, I had a thought.  (I have those every now and then.) I thought about how running a store is so similar to running our lives.  We want to keep adding new and exciting things to our schedules to keep things interesting.  Over the years, we pack and pack and pack some more into our load but eventually something has to go.  It can't all fit in the set space. 

When life get too cluttered, we have to make choices about what must go just like I do at work..... 

1)  Some things, you once thought were going to be fabulous and wildly successful, failed to meet your expectations.  There are things that we were excited about in the beginning but then they ended up doing little more than taking up valuable space.  It was nothing like we thought it would be.  In retail, these items need to be put on the sale table and lessons learned.  Same is true for us, too.  Clearance is always a good idea when we need to make room for more productive pursuits.  Our time and space are valuable and we need to fill them with things that will bear fruit. 

2)  Some things are seasonal.  Gloves don't sell in July and beach bags don't budge at Christmas. We have all these fillers in our lives that are good for a season but, when the season is passed, they may not be appropriate for us anymore.  When we enter a new season, we need to adjust and search for things which are more suitable for the time that we're in.  Mrs. Claus doesn't belong out with the spring chickens.  She just doesn't.               

3)  Some things will begin to show a little wear.  We call it shop worn in the retail world.  The sun has faded the color.  A kid has opened the package.  The floor has made it dirty.  In life, there may be things that started out grand and compelling but, after sitting around and taking up our space for a while, they lose their luster and aren't all that appealing.  In life and in a store, it's time to cut your losses and let it go.    

4)  Sometimes, we listen to other people too much.  We can't always listen to what others say we need.  Just because something brings good results for one doesn't mean it will for another.  In store terms, I can testify to this.  The two stores I buy for are 15 miles apart and I can take an item that isn't moving from one store and it will sell 15 miles down the road.  It's amazing.  Same is true for us.  What we hear is awesome from our friends may not be that great for us.  In life and in retail, just because it's the hottest thing going doesn't mean it's the right thing for who we are and where we are.

5)  Sometimes, we find out that things aren't worth what they cost us.  When merchandise sits for a while, you realize that cost may be a factor.  There are a lot of trappings out there but we/they may not be willing to pay the price of having them.  Sometimes, we're willing to sacrifice in order to acquire them and, other times, we're not.  Each person has to decide if the cost is worth the benefit.  As a store buyer, sometimes, I find out too late that the price I paid was just too much.  Sadly, this can happen in life, too.
  
6)  Other people have to be considered in our choices.  When I go to market, I have to remember that it's not all about what I like and what I want.  If I just concentrate on what I like, we won't be successful.  I have to consider what our shoppers want.  Same is true with life priorities.  It's not all about us.  We have other people to consider as we load our lives with different pursuits.

7)  Periodically, there are things out front that need to be moved to the back.  And things in the back need to be closer to the front.  It's always a good idea to keep proper order in a store and in our lives.  Important things need to take a place of prominence and more trivial items need to take a backseat.  Sometimes, a different placement can give a breath of life to something that's been overlooked.

Ok, I'm going to stop abruptly at 7 because, well, this girl is tired!  And did I mention that this is Valentine's weekend, so there is no rest for the weary. 

We'll have a Valentine recap next week. 

I hope y'all have a great weekend full of love......and chocolate.     


(And thanks so much for all the sweet messages!  I will answer each of them personally when I can take a breather!  Just know that they were much appreciated!)

       

            

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

That's 10 in Joni Years

Well, today is a special day.  It's the 2nd birthday of this little blog! 
I can't emphasize enough how long two years is for me.  Two years is like 10 in Joni years.  My stick-to-it-ive-ness record is only slightly longer than the life of a fruit fly so the fact that I've stuck with blogging for two years is amazing to me.  If ADD had been a thing back in my day, I would've been diagnosed for sure.  I mean, don't get me wrong....I stick to the big, important things in life like jobs, marriage, etc. but it's those things that are extra and optional, like exercise and hobbies, that I seem to have difficulty devoting myself to for long periods.  So, really, this blog experience is kind of a breakthrough for me.   
 
Sometimes, the hardest part about blogging is just thinking of something to write about.  Especially, since we've been around the calendar a couple of times together, there are days when I feel like I'm starting to sound repetitive.  And, other times, I'll sit here and something will pop into my head and I'll contemplate if y'all would really enjoy hearing about the doldrums of my day...... and, often, after I think about it a minute, I'll delete it all....convincing myself that I'm feeling drowsy just writing about it.  I feel like if you're going to take the time to come here then I want to make it worth your trip.  (I know you're thinking...."Really? That's funny...'cause seems like she doesn't have the bar set all that high.")  On occasion, my life will break out of its routine shell but, a lot of the time, I have little "out of the ordinary" to work with.  I've even toyed with the idea of asking you all for subject ideas from which I could pull when there's just nothing in my head.  So, if you have a suggestion, I would be more than happy to receive an email from you! 

I appreciate you continuing to show up here even when I've had busy seasons at work or at home and I'm not as regular as I'd like to be.  Unfortunately, there are still those things called bills which come in the mail so I must work from time to time.  Thanks for not leaving me.       

I see this blog like a tiny grain of sand buried in the long stretch of beach called the internet.  There's so much stuff out there competing for our clicks.  Begging for our attention.  Wanting a piece of our time.  The fact that you visit here and give me just a few minutes of your day......well, in this world of bloated schedules and anemic free time, I am beyond humbled.  And the fact that I'm doing what I've always enjoyed.....writing to try to bring laughter and talk about things that are important to me plus having you come and listen, well, I'm just beside myself every single day.  This blog has become so much a part of me and my weekly routine that I can't remember what life was like without it. 

Any opportunity or ability or joy I have comes from Him.  Simple as that. 

Thank you, God, for this. 

And thank you, sweet readers.  You are loved by me.

(If you'd like to give a birthday gift to the blog, follow Motherhood and Muffin Tops by email at the top of the page and follow us on Facebook!) 



Happy Wednesday!               

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The New Playbook

Carson was at D-Now this weekend.  For those of you who don't know what that is, it's an in-town Bible study retreat weekend for area-wide youth.  It's always a great time for teenagers with bands, speakers, and small group studies.  The kids stay in host homes for the weekend and I am persuaded that, in the sweet by and by, the Lord will extend an extra measure of blessings upon those people who have opened their houses to a gaggle of teenagers for the weekend.  I, myself, am counting on my one year as a hostess to snag me a fast-pass in the hereafter.  I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure a fast-pass gets you priority service at most of the attractions up there.....allowing you to bypass the people who never worked in Bible School or chaperoned a lock-in.  None of this is Biblical, it's just a hunch I have.        

Anyway, this year for D-Now, I was signed up to help with putting out the food for their lunch on Saturday as they were all meeting up at the church to eat.  I met some of the other moms there and we worked to get the food set up before the herd of wildebeests arrived. 

I saw Carson across the room talking with some guys.  I played it cool and didn't make eye contact and tried not to even look his way.  Just when I had the whole teenage girl thing perfected, she grows up on me and I have to start back at the beginning with a boy so I'm trying to shift gears from one to the other.  I'm not sure but I think the mothering rules are different with boys so everything I had ever learned or gotten use to with Blair is out the window.  We're using a different playbook now and, until I get this adolescent male thing figured out, I'm just going to play it cool.........and, let me tell you, I am nothing if not cool.  

As I was about to leave the church, I looked up and saw the back of his head and he was within just a few feet of me.  He was cutting up with some other boys in the food line.  I know all of you, moms, have been there......to speak or not to speak.  I stopped and had a conversation with myself in my head.  Do I say goodbye?  I know I don't hug him or kiss him......or ask him if he's brushing his teeth and changing his underwear.  Do I slap him on the back of the head?   Doesn't a slap to the head translate to, "I love you" in boy language?  I mean, their language isn't on Google Translate so there's really no way for a mom to know these things for sure.  I contemplated what to do.  "Nah, I'll just see him tomorrow," I thought and I left.     

I realized the boy/Mom playbook and the girl/Mom playbook may be two different things when Carson was only in pre-K.  One morning, I was walking him to his classroom through the long, winding hallways when he suddenly turned around and stood in front of me with his arms out in a traffic cop pose.  "Mama, stop!  Let's just kiss here," he said......"Wait, what?  You're four years old," I thought.  I was devastated.  He barely came up to my kneecaps and was already wanting to get the affection formalities out of the way before we got anywhere close to his classroom where the other 4 year old men folk could see. 

I wasn't used to that.  Blair would kiss me anywhere, anytime, any age.  I could walk up to her and a circle of girls and just strike up a conversation with them and she was fine with that.  I suppose it's hard for a Mom to do that with a bunch of guys, though.  "So, hey, fellas.......sup?  Y'all excited about the Super Bowl?  Who's playing in it?  Are the Panthers the ones with the pretty jerseys?  I love that color blue.  I guess I'd call it peacock blue or maybe a turquoise blue.  Either way, it's pretty.  I hope the game doesn't go into extra innings because there's a new episode of Fixer Upper I want to see.  Don't y'all just love that show?"  I can't even imagine the progressing shades of red he would turn.           
                
Yeah, Carson and I are incredibly close.  We enjoy a really strong mother/son bond but I'm "with it" enough to know that we don't have to show that out in public where there are other guys around.  I don't know a lot about boys but I did have brothers and I learned enough to know that "Mama's boy" is not a title that many teenage guys are striving to obtain.  So, to avoid that, I'll let him take the lead.  If he wants to hug, we hug.  If not, we don't.  He knows where to find me if he needs me.

Otherwise, I'm laying low.

     Y'all have a great Monday!

 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Time to Make the Donuts


Well, Davis was eligible to retire on Monday.  So, on Tuesday morning, the alarm clock went off at 5:50 a.m. and he sprang to his feet and headed straight for the shower.  He shaved, put on his dress pants and button down shirt, and ate a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats topped with a handful of blueberries while watching the news.  Then, at approximately 6:45, he got in his truck and drove to his office where he poured himself a cup of coffee and took a seat at his desk.  Just like he's done every day for the last 32 1/2 years.  That's what you do when you have almost put one through college but still have a 15 year old who will soon need a car and will be in college in a few years.  Yes, you go to work the day after you're eligible to retire.     

Ok, let me stop and clear something up here.  Davis is 7 years older than me, ok?  I am much, much too young to retire......just so you know.  Seven years isn't a big deal when you're grown but we always laugh about how it would've been a pretty big deal at some points in our lives like, say, if he'd asked me, a fifth grader, to his senior prom.  Or if I'd taken him, a 23 year old, to my junior year homecoming. Yes, at some stages of our lives, our love would have been illegal and would've landed Davis in the slammer but, thankfully, we didn't meet until much later when we weren't prohibited by any law.  I was 24 and he was 31 when we got married.  I graduated from college and had just started my first job about the time he was transferred here with his job which landed us in the same single adult Sunday school class.  The rest is history and now we are all straight on who's retirement age and who's not

Anyway, getting back to his retirement eligibility, I was thinking about how much of our lives we spend at our work.  When we're 18 or 19 or 20, we all pick what we want to do with our lives and we head off in that direction to achieve it.  And for most of our days, we get up every morning and go do what that 19 year old decided so long ago.  Sometimes, we love what we do and can't picture ourselves doing anything else.  Sometimes, we change course along the way and take off in a different direction.  And, sometimes, we just want to go back and smack that 19 year old in the face.      

We sit in our office or cubicle or whatever, day after day, using the same stapler and looking at the same clock. Our picture frames are periodically updated with new photos.  We've seen a half dozen office coffee pots come and go during our tenure.  We have our little place in the break room refrigerator where we always keep our lunch and drinks.  We've eaten our share of birthday cakes and signed our share of cards.  Dropped quite a few dollars in the funeral spray donation basket.  Bumped up the thermostat when we couldn't take the menopausal women's freeze another minute.  We've wrestled with the toner.  Screened a few calls.  Broke down and washed the unclaimed Tupperware that's been in the sink for a week.  We sign for packages and stand at the fax machine and ask if anyone could spare some binder clips.  Everyday, we show up to this place we call work.  The building where we spend a large chunk of our lives doing what it is that we do.   

We probably spend more time with the people we work with than we do with most anyone else.  We know the ones who won't care if we use a little of their flavored creamer and those who will surely take notice.  We'll donate sick days to anyone who really needs them and we know they'd do the same for us.  We'll buy Girl Scout cookies or wrapping paper or just about anything if someone's kid is selling it.  There are those you can hear all the way down the hall.  Those you can always count on.  Those who make us laugh.  Those who are missed when they're out.  There are the hormonal.  The grumpy.  The serious.  The aggravating.  The helpful.  The tardy.  But, we're all on the same ship moving in the same direction.  We cover for each other.  Disagree with each other.  Laugh at each other.  And befriend one another.    
                                 
Work is where some of us are living out our dreams and some are just paying the bills.  Could be a stepping stone or maybe it's the destination.  Our position could fail to meet others' expectations of us or it could be that it's beyond anything they imagined we could ever accomplish.  It either makes us we feel good about where we are or where we're always looking for a way to escape.  For some, it's an all-consuming place.....unable to think of much else.  For others, they just want to do enough to get by.  It can be a defining place for us or just a paycheck.  A calling, a natural gift, or a learned trade.  It can be a place of satisfaction and a place of frustration.  It's where we show our character.  Our loyalty.  Our work ethic.  Our values.  It can reveal who we are.....and whose we are.
.    
I'm not sure that Davis would retire right now even if he could.  He's one of those deranged souls who loves to work.  But, I think even more than that, he loves having a place where people are looking for him every day.  A place where he knows what he's doing and what his purpose is there.  It's a reason to get up and a motivation for the day.  It's a mission field.  A circle of friends.  A social outlet.  A place of belonging.  A sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. 

It's a place where he's needed. 

And isn't that what we all want?  Just to be needed.

So, Happy Retirement Eligibility Day to you, Davis!  Have a great day at work, dear!    

          

 

  

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Long and Winding Road to the White House

I know you can't help but notice that the coverage of the presidential election has reached the non-stop level.  They talk about it all day.  Everyday.  Ad nauseam.  And if it wasn't bad enough on a regular day, days like today, the Iowa caucus, well, it's just crazy.  Now, don't get me wrong....I'm all into politics but I'm not sure we need to talk these things to death. 

I was thinking how exhausting running for president would be.  To measure every word you say.  To be pleasant at all times.  To have your life scrutinized relentlessly.  You'd have to be slightly insane to subject yourself to all that. 

Let's imagine a day in the life of a presidential candidate.....   

As a candidate, I likely get up each morning and am briefed on the day's schedule and latest media buzz.  I'm down by 5% in polls so I'm going to need to step up my game and kiss more tail.  I'll need to make more promises.....bigger and grander promises than before.  I will vow to lower taxes while still providing free everything to everyone.  Plus, as an added bonus, I will end world hunger and create peace among all mankind all over the world. 
 
I find out that I am down in the polls with women.  I will need to listen more closely to them and ask them what is on their minds.  I will hold their babies and tell them that I, too, drive a mini-van.  I will arrange an appearance at the local PTA meeting and tell them about my grandchildren and the importance of early education and school funding.

 I am told by my staff that my "Likable" numbers are down from this time last month.  This is a problem.      
 
To offset this misconception, I will pose for lots of selfies to show that I am genuinely likable.  I will even give them time to check to see if their eyes were open because that's how likable I am.     
 
 
Oh, and I will pet dogs......even dogs who are clearly not interested in my forced affection.......because that is what likable people do.  They pet other people's dogs.     
 
 
For lunch, I will be at the state fair where I will pretend to enjoy a corn dog fresh from the grease.  I don't like corn dogs but everyone else seems to be having a corn dog and so I, too, will have a corn dog to appear as if I am just an everyday person who likes corn dogs.  Mmmmm....corn dogs.  My favorite.
 
After my corn dog, I will head over to the pork chop stand and have a pork chop on a stick because I'm scheduled to speak to the pig farmers at 2 and they did send me that check in the mail.....so, even though I feel sick to my stomach, I must provide a pork chop photo op.   

 
I will spend the afternoon shaking hands.  I try not to think about it but I have no idea where all these hands have been.  That's why I keep a 5 gallon drum of sanitizer in the bus, because, well, the common folk and all their germs.  Eeeeeewww.    
 
I'm scheduled to do an interview this afternoon.  The reporter asks me questions like....How will you fix this?....and.....Twenty years ago, did you say that?....and.....What do you say to people who call you this?.......and.......Why won't you admit that you messed up that?  It's always a fun time.     


Then, it's time to get back to mingling with ordinary Americans.  It is important that I connect with the people.  I will listen to them and when they laugh, I will laugh with them.
 
And when they cry, I will......wince.  Yes, I will wince. 
 
Today, I will find out the latest laughs people are having at my expense. 
One day, it's my hair....
 
The next day, it's my age........
 
or my face....
 
People are mean and, sometimes, I just want to get in my car, turn up the radio, put on my sunglasses, and drive.....drive really fast...... incognito........but then I remember......incognito is hard when your name is plastered on the side of your ride.

I quickly realize that there are a lot of crazies out there and I keep people with earpieces near me at all times.   
 
By late afternoon, I have been notified that something I said is making waves.  Social media and the news channels are all abuzz.  One of my people will write a speech which I will deliver to explain what I was really saying when people misunderstood what I said and made what I said into something that I didn't mean to say because they didn't get what I was saying.  The speech should clear everything up.
    
After that ordeal, I'm exhausted and hungry.  The locals tout their famous BBQ place and insist I eat there so I make an appearance for another photo op which the owner can hang on his wall.  I grab some takeout for the bus ride and try to figure out how the people can want a president who is deemed physically fit to hold the office but they feed me corndogs and fried Oreos and pork chops and BBQ.   
 
I eat the BBQ and stretch out for a nap on my way to the next stop.....where I will be talking to the Financial Women's Association so I try to make the transition from swine to swing trading in my mind.  I change out of my cowboy boots and concentrate on how I cannot slip and use the same relaxed grammar as I used when speaking to the pork people.  The Financial Women's Association would surely wrinkle their noses at any mistaken use of the word, ain't, for the farmer effect.  I must change my clothes.....and my persona in a hurry.    
        
After a speech and 127 more selfies, I go back to the bus and call it a day.  Only 279 more days of this to go.  
 
 
And you and I will get to hear about every single one of them.
 
 
Night, y'all.