Tuesday, May 22, 2018

One Too Many Choices

So, all of the graduation festivities are now over, which is sad, but also a tremendous relief. You know, sometimes, you can really enjoy something and soak it in, but also really be glad when it's over. That's really a thing that happens. These last couple of weeks have just been a whirlwind of activity.

We'd already had a baccalaureate service at church, a family graduation party, awards night, the school's baccalaureate service, a celebration dinner, a sports banquet, senior walk-through and lunch, and preparation for another gathering, the next day after graduation.....most of those requiring something to be ironed, pressed, picked up at the cleaners, a form to be filled out, reservations made, and/or baby pictures to be submitted.

It was Friday and we had finally rounded the corner to the big finale. So, we arrive to graduation and I'm breathless. I'd announced to everyone the time we needed to leave our house in order to arrive and secure seats for the big night. I'd thought of everything. I'd charged the camera battery and my phone. Packed my purse with all the essentials. Pressed his gown for what seemed like the 14th time as he'd already worn it to several other events. I helped him with his bow tie and we got him out the door.

Blair and John Samuel got in town, a couple of hours earlier. He dropped her off at our house and then headed to his parents' house as his little sister was graduating from another school at the same time as Carson. He was long gone by the time Blair discovered she'd never gotten her dress out of the car and we were under an hour before leaving. She was going to have to find something in my closet and the likelihood of a 23 year old finding a suitable dress in her 50 year old mother's closet would be about the same as her finding a winning lottery ticket in there, but, as luck would have it, I had a dress that I intended to return, which she found acceptable, and we were back on track.

I got myself ready and put on my dress. Graduation was on the football field in the Mississippi humid heat, so I'd already eliminated anything very dressy or any form of high heels. I had a couple of different pair of shoes that would work with the lightweight dress, but couldn't decide on which to wear. As we, ladies, often do, I put one of each on and stood in front of my full length mirror. They both had their good points, I thought. I'd hold one leg up and look and then hold the other leg up and contemplate the other choice. I finally decided I needed to go find Blair for her opinion. She's my go-to person in these types of situations and it was nice that she was there in person and we didn't have to do it by way of text.

I walked out of the bedroom and met Davis, who asked me a question, and then my mother rang the doorbell. She was riding with us and was on time, which was not something to be downplayed. I yelled out a warning call to everyone that it was about time to load up and leave. I gathered my camera and purse and tried to think of anything else that we'd need and we were on our way. Davis and three women had hit their target departure time and I was feeling pretty good about things. Quite accomplished, really.  

We arrived at the school and I sent the others ahead with my purse to go and find us some seats and I hung back near the building, where the seniors were getting ready. The mothers had been instructed that there would be a class photo opp on the lawn outside that building at 6:35 for anyone who was interested. Well, I've never met one of my children's moments that I didn't want to capture, so I stood around talking to some teacher friends, while I waited for 6:35. Well, what happened next was that one of them looked down and informed me that I was wearing two different shoes.

Panic ensued. I'd left my bedroom to find Blair for her opinion, got sidetracked, and never thought about the shoes again.  

Being the good person she is, one of my teacher friends went and retrieved Davis from the stands and told him about my dilemma as he had my purse and keys and phone and everything with him. I had 30 minutes to resolve the problem and avoid humiliating Carson by congratulating him on the field with mismatched shoes. I asked Davis to go home as fast as he could and..."bring back one of these 2 shoes...I really don't care which one, at this point". Matching shoes was the only goal moving forward. I knew sending Davis was risky as I've seen even old ladies, who could barely see over the steering wheel, pass him and give him snarky looks, so he could potentially miss his son's graduation if he drove his usual speed. I emphasized that this was one of those situations, where speeding was ok and even encouraged and then sent him on his way.

I took some pictures, while I waited, which seemed like forever. While I stood around, parents and teachers and even seniors weighed in on my shoe choices. I didn't have a pen and paper to tally the votes or anything, but it seemed like those who were closer to my age thought I should've sent him for the mate to the left shoe and the younger set firmly believed I needed to go with the right shoe.  

Finally, I saw Davis speed walking toward me in the parking lot with two shoes. He'd brought them both. What a dear, sweet man. I went with the left choice and tossed the other pair in my friend's car, who was parked nearby, and we went to our seats with a good 5 minutes to spare before the procession started.

And, so, that's that. The first week of my 50th year found me dragging toilet paper from the bathroom....stuck to the bottom of my shoe. The second week wraps up with me showing up to my son's graduation wearing two different shoes, so I would completely understand if you didn't want to be associated with me any longer. I'm not sure I want to be associated with me, at this point. I may unfollow myself. Let's just say that I'm just glad that I'm not currently the mother of any big milestone.....bride, graduate, etc.. For now, I'm just a regular, everyday, run-of-the-mill mother. Which is obviously more my speed.

Yes, this is where I belong.

In the slow lane of motherhood.

And, now, I'll leave you with a few obligatory pictures.

Good day to y'all!






Thursday, May 17, 2018

To My Son on His Graduation Day

The Way God Planned It

I remember when they placed you in my arms. A beautiful son. You were so tiny and helpless. I remember how your little feet fit in the palm of my hand. I'd take my fingers and brush your hair over to the side. You looked like a little man. I knew, even then, that it wouldn't be too long before I could no longer pick you up and, one day, I'd likely have to look up to see your face. I remember how I wanted to keep you little and hold you in my arms forever, but I knew that wasn't the way God planned it. 

I remember thinking, that day, of all the things that you might grow to become. A friend, employee, boyfriend, student, team member, husband, father, supervisor, uncle, leader. I thought about all the things we needed to teach you first. How to love, how to work with your hands, how to manage money, how to fish, garden, cook, wash clothes, shoot a gun, and have good manners. Oh, and how to use a compass, start a fire, run a chainsaw, change a tire, and use jumper cables. It was a little overwhelming at the thought of how much ground we'd have to cover. I just wanted to just keep you with me and do all those things for you, but I knew that wasn't the way God planned it.      

I thought about how, one day, you'd likely have your heart broken by a girl. One day, you might like her more than she likes you. One day, you might not make the team. You could be left out on the playground or be overlooked. One day, you might be bullied or come home crying. One day, you could be mistreated or wrongly accused. My eyes filled with tears just thinking of the possibility of your heart being crushed as I held you that day. I wanted to pull you close and protect you from all the pains of life. I was ready to fight all of your battles for you and keep anyone from ever hurting you, but I knew that wasn't the way God planned it.

I thought about the responsibility of teaching you about God and salvation. I thought how that was the most important part of our job. One day, you'd learn Bible verses and go to Vacation Bible School and learn songs about Jesus. We'd take you to church and try our best to lead you by example. I thought about how we'd have to teach you life lessons and encourage you to make good choices. I thought about how inadequate I felt in the face of that giant task. I wanted to just snap my fingers and make all those important decisions for you, but I knew that wasn't how God planned it.     

That day, I thought about all the ways you'd make us proud. We'd likely receive lots of compliments about you, through the years. We'd probably attend our share of programs and ballgames and competitions and we'd surely take lots of pictures. I was sure your room would have trophies and patches on display. I thought about how you'd have skills and talents that we'd need to identify and nurture. And, one day, you'd find that one thing that would make you excited down to your very core. There would be a passion that you would discover along the way. Something that God placed inside of you. Something that would make you who you are. I wanted to just plan out your life and make choices for you that defined success in my mind, but I knew that wasn't how God planned it.

I thought about how you'd inevitably fail at some things. You'd just not hit the mark. You'd give it your all and it wouldn't be quite good enough. There would be jobs you wouldn't get and awards that would be given to someone else. There would be tests that you'd bomb. There would be times when your name wouldn't be called or you'd look on a list and it wouldn't be there. I thought about how much more that would hurt me than it would hurt you. Just the thought of it broke my heart as I held you that day. I decided I might need to discourage you from sticking your neck out too far and keep you on a safe path, where disappointment couldn't touch you, but I knew that wasn't how God planned it.       

I thought about how, one day, you'd ride a bike and a skateboard and even drive a car. One day, you'd travel without me and go places all on your own. You'd go off to camps and overnight visits. There would be a day when you'd want to ride a horse or buy a kayak or climb into a deer stand. One day, you might want to travel the country by motorcycle or climb the tallest mountain or learn to fly a plane. I thought about broken bones, stitches, skinned knees, bumps on the head, and dented cars. There would be sleepless nights, trips to the ER, and sitting up late to see that you got home safely. I thought maybe I would just protect you from danger by keeping you close to me and not letting you out of my sight, but I knew that wasn't how God planned it.

I thought about how, one day, you'd likely find a special girl. You'd want to be with her as much as possible. I thought about how she'd start to become the center of your world. There would be a day when you'd go to her with your problems and ask her for advice. I wondered how that would make me feel. I wondered if I'd feel replaced. I held you tight and just wanted to keep you all for myself, but I knew that wasn't the way God planned it.

As I looked down at you, I thought about how, one day, you would be leaving our home. You'd pack your things and load your U-Haul and head out in the direction of your dreams. I thought about how it could be to a college or a boot camp or a job in a big city......or one of a thousand other possibilities. I thought about how you'd have a calling and there'd be a place in God's big world where you'd be needed. I thought about how quiet it would be without you at home. I thought about what an adjustment it would be for your Daddy and me. I looked down at your baby face and planned how I could keep you from ever going off on your own and leaving us, but I knew that wasn't the way God planned it.          

You'd never grow to become the man God intended you to be if I kept you little and cradled in my arms. You'd never have any strength or independence if I fought all your battles. If I charted your paths, they'd likely take you to places you where you wouldn't be happy. If I sheltered you from danger, you'd never know the joy of adventure and the thrill of living. If I kept you from taking chances, you'd never realize your potential or find out what makes you tick. If I did all the hard things for you, you'd be lost when I'm gone. If I kept you all for myself, you'd never know the joy of true love. If I protected you from experiencing pain, you'd never learn to persevere or appreciate the good times. If I never taught you about God, you'd never accomplish your part of His big plan. If I kept you here with me, you'd never find your special place in the world.   

And that wasn't the way God planned it.       

No one will ever be more proud of you than I am. No one will hurt more in your disappointments than I will. No one will be happier in your triumphs than me. No one stands taller at the sound of your name than I do. No one will cheer for you like me. No one wants more for you than I do.   
Because no one knows what it's like to hold your beating heart inside of them except me. 

No one.   

As you graduate, today, remember that, until I draw my final breath, you will be my baby boy. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

50 is, Apparently, the New 67 / The Thing About Mothers

Well, I survived the milestone birthday. I had one thing that happened, that day, which solidified the crossover.

Late in the day, we traveled down to the gulf coast to have dinner with Blair and John Samuel. They'd invited us to come down and go out for seafood and then back to their place for birthday dessert. We were going to spend the night and all travel back up for one of the family graduations, the next morning.

We met up with them at the restaurant, after they got off work, and I quickly asked where the restrooms were, while we waited to be seated. We'd been traveling and I was ready to locate one as I was now freshly 50. I took care of business and emerged from the bathroom, walked down the hall, past the bar, and through the main dining area, where a young waitress tapped me on the shoulder. She leaned in close and whispered, "your shoe" as she pointed down. I looked to discover that there I was, on the first day of my 5th decade, in the middle of a restaurant with a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Well, I think "piece" doesn't really do it justice. Its length was more like that of the tail of a kite or a windsock. Let's just say that 2 or 3 people could have split it up and used the restroom with no problem as it was dragging along behind me for a good 4 feet.

Now, I wasn't sure what the proper etiquette would be for this type of thing. My Mama went over what to do in a lot of social situations, but, this, she never covered. I wasn't sure that reaching down and pulling it off was not really a viable option for me, the daughter of a germophobe. I mean, something that I picked up from the bathroom floor, which stuck to the bottom of my shoe by means of no telling what type of sticky substance and then pulled along behind me for about a quarter of a mile, well, I didn't really want to touch it with my freshly washed hands. So, with all of the discretion and grace that a southern woman in her 50's could gather, I extended my leg and shook it with all my might in hopes that it would become dislodged and go sailing quietly under our table.....which it did.....but not without the large party, seated next to us, seeing the whole thing and chuckling among themselves.

So, there's that. Just so you know.....I have officially arrived. My ticket has been punched. I'm in the books. Initiation is complete. I am 50.

And, today, was Mother's Day, which is what this post is really about.

I know I've told y'all this, but Carson cried the first five months of his little life. Well, I wouldn't really call it crying......it was more like a blood-curdling, spine-tingling, hair-raising type of screaming. One that would cause your ears to ring even after it had subsided. Bless his heart.....he was just miserable and so were we, to be quite honest. After several changes in formula, he eventually settled down and became the happiest, most pleasant baby that has ever lived....and has been an absolute dream ever since. He just really got off to a rocky start is all.

Well, since he was up practically all night screaming, during those months, I'd, of course, get up and do what I could to calm him. I mean, we did have another child in the house, who needed to get some rest. Davis, well, I wasn't as worried about how much sleep he was getting. You know, you kind of get that resentful kind of sleep comparison with your spouse during those newborn months. Sleep deprivation can cause you to get a bit snippy. Anyway, Carson had gotten pretty accustomed to me getting up whenever he cried and so, even when he was way past all the fussiness, well, he still wanted my company when he'd wake up in the night.

This went on a for a few months and I'd get up and rock him back to sleep. We rocked many-a-mile together in the dark of night, while the rest of the world slept. At one of his checkups, our pediatrician asked about his sleeping and I had to confess that he was still waking up and I was promptly getting up and rocking him back to sleep. Well, of course, he told me that I needed to nip that in the bud. It had become a habit and he needed to learn to get himself back to sleep, at this point.

We'd gotten the doctor's recommendation on getting him to sleep through the night and so he'd start crying and Davis and I would lie there, unable to sleep, and I'd tell him how hard it was for me to not go in, but I knew for my sanity and the nocturnal rest of our family, we had to do something. For a couple of nights, he'd cry and we'd lie there and listen. Little Blair staggered in our room, one night, all sleepy-eyed, and said, "Mama, Carson is crying." Bless her heart....like we couldn't hear him. Like the neighbors at the end of our street couldn't hear him.

Well, I was struggling with the process to start with because (A) I absolutely loved rocking them when they were little and (B) to deny him that and listen to him cry without responding to him was just killing me. Well, one thing about both of our kids was that they were very vocal. Very vocal. They talked early and could really express themselves at a young age. This wasn't always a good thing, especially in this situation. Something happened that just completely sabotaged our efforts to break him of his sleep disrupting habit. One night, he grabbed the rails of his crib with his little, chubby hands, pulled himself up to a shaky stand and, with all the emotion he could muster, he let out the most heartbreaking plea. "Mama, hold the baby.....rock together." I looked over at Davis and said, "Ok, bye". I didn't care if I had to rock him until he was 16, his Mama's heart couldn't resist answering such a heart-wrenching bidding from her precious baby. That sweet voice was just too much for me. The very worst pain I could ever feel is the pain felt by one of my children.

When Blair was little, she had this thing she did when she was excited about something. She'd put her hands down by her side and wiggle her little fingers on her thighs and kind of bend her knees and go up and down. It was something that indicated that she was experiencing so much joy, at that moment, that it had to come out, somehow. She just couldn't keep her excitement bottled up and that was her outward expression of it. Those little fingers wiggled on her thighs on occasions such as when she was on the Barbie aisle at the store, when we were headed to the beach or zoo or any of her favorite spots, or when guests started to arrive at her birthday party. Any event that produced more excitement than she could contain within herself would spur this release......this outward explosion of joy.

A couple of years ago, Blair worked in Atlanta, during her Christmas break, as an intern in a field she was exploring as a possible career. The line of work had absolutely nothing to do with her college major, so she was anxious to see if it would be something she'd like. She learned a lot of good information there, gained valuable experience, and was introduced to a lot of different companies and their owners and managers, and, by week's end, had several job offers extended to her upon her graduation from college.

I was in Atlanta working for a few days, toward the end of her time there, and I met her for dinner, one night, downtown. She hadn't had time to talk to me on the phone, but had texted bits and pieces about all the exciting things that were happening. When we met, she seemed a little breathless. A mix of adrenaline and excitement and exhaustion, I suppose. We were seated and she began to give me a complete run down of the promising week she'd had. I told her not to leave out any of the details and, as she talked, her pretty, brown eyes just danced. They were sparkling with excitement and her voice was singing with enthusiasm as she was just one semester away from graduation and so many doors had opened for her in such a short time. In between her jabbering, she kept acknowledging that it had all been a God-given gift and, for that, I was thankful that she recognized that all of the unlikely unfolding of circumstances offered no other explanation except His hand working on her behalf.

Besides the dancing eyes, the enthusiastic tone, and the face lit with excitement, I thought I picked up on something else as we discussed her week. As she talked, she had her hands in her lap, but I could see her arms moving in an old, familiar way. While she laid out all the possibilities for her future, her fingers were wiggling on her thighs, ever so slightly. She wasn't standing and bending her knees up and down or being really obvious with her thigh slapping, finger wiggling, but.......ever so faintly and, oh, so subtly.....in a manner that only her mother would notice, she was doing her little childhood expression of excitement under the table. At almost 22 years old, my child was so blissfully caught up in the joy of the moment that she had defaulted to her old and familiar way to release it. As her mother, my heart just melted right there. To know that she was as outwardly joyful as she was at her Barbie birthday party, well, I was on a cloud, myself. Nothing that I could ever personally achieve or attain could have ever given me half the joy that watching her eyes, that night, gave me. The most thrilling joy I could ever experience is the joy of my children.       
I guess that's the number one thing about being a mother. A child's hurt has the potential to permeate his mother's whole heart and mind and completely block out any other thoughts and supersede any concern she has for herself until his hurt has passed. And a child's joy is magnified 1,000 times in her mother's heart and surpasses any joy that the mother could personally experience in her own life.

"Making the decision to have a child- it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."  Elizabeth Stone

And for all the wonderful women, who aren't biological mothers, I know that there are lives, which you're investing in....whether they're nieces, nephews, godchildren, students, foster kids, a friend's kids, adopted children, children at church, kids you tutor, stepchildren, even foster pets, and countless other possibilities. To love and care for them is completely a selfless choice on your part and maybe the most noble commitment of all. You don't have to give birth to make a difference in a life or to be treasured by young souls.

Both of my children have beautiful, caring women, who invest time and energy into them and devote themselves, out of the goodness of their hearts, to their enrichment. Devoting their own gifts to lives to which they have absolutely no obligation. A choice of the heart. I can tell you that these are among the most loved and valued relationships that my children have. Women, who love them because they want to. Because they choose to. Never underestimate the admiration you garner from those young lives. Never discount the impact you have. You make a difference. You are loved.  

It's graduation week and we're booked 4 of the next 6 nights. My guess is that I'll see y'all after this week is all over. Next week starts my slow season. My really, really slow season. I'll look forward to checking in more often.

Have a good one!        


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Long in the Tooth

Well, this will be quick, but I just wanted to pop in and tell you some news. I regret to inform you that I'm posting, tonight, for the very last time as a woman in her 40's. In just a few minutes, at the stroke of midnight, I'll be a 50 year old. A friend of mine texted and asked what I was doing on my last day as a forty-something. I told her I was having my teeth cleaned. Yeah, I figured if I spent the last day of my "youth" having my teeth scraped with sharp, metal instruments by an overzealous dental hygienist, then, well, the first day of my 50's would, at least, be a step up from that.

The dental types always go on and on about the good condition of my teeth, but, today, they really laid it on thick. Apparently, I have the healthiest gums they'd seen in a long time and they even took it a step further to say that I fall in that 10% of the population, who have no gum disease or gum issues of any kind. So, as I head into my next decade, I can, at least, hold my head high knowing that I have the teeth and gums of a much younger woman......everything else is pretty much on a descending track but the teeth and gums, well, let's just say they'd serve me well if I was being shown at Westminster.

And the local endoscopy center decided to get cute and send a birthday card.
Nothing like just hitting you with that on day one. No adjustment period or ice breaker games or orientation classes for the 50's.....no, just get on down here and let us check your colon. That's just more great fun that I can't wait to have.

I've already had some birthday fun today and the next couple of days promise more. Last week, I had lunch with one of my birthday twins, Susan. She's a step ahead of me on the road of life and we went to celebrate ourselves, a little early. We've been friends for years and years and she's always had the gift of bringing out the snorting laughter that lies deep within me. And her giftedness in making the perfect tea cakes only bolsters the fondness I feel towards her. I'm so thankful for her and the other women God has given me as friends, who've already been where I am and offer me their experience on things......most recently, the emptying of the nest. So, Happy Birthday to my Susan. Don't know what I'd do without her.  

So much going on, but hoping I can stop back in before Mother's Day!

Y'all have a good one!



Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What's a Mother To Do?

Well, it's May and we all know what that means. Most of our calendars look only slightly less wordy than the Declaration of Independence. With all of its madness, May is really just a warmer copy of December except without the tree in your living room. Carson graduates in 2 weeks and 2 days and, until then, there will be banquets, programs, services, and parties.....the first being tonight. End of the year is always hectic, but, with a graduate, it's just plain nuts. Making sure the white shirts get to the cleaners for starch. New dress shoes. Mastering the tying of a bow tie. RSVPs. Turning in all of the forms and baby pictures and writing checks to whoever asks for one. We also have five other graduates in the family ranging from high school to nurse practitioner, so it's going to get pretty crazy around here until everybody has turned their tassels and flung their caps into the air.

Carson attends one of those rare K-12, all on one campus, schools and he's been there all 13 years. We moved and Blair started there one year before his kindergarten year, so we've had a child at this sweet school for 14 years now. I was there, a couple of weeks ago, and walked through a swarm of kindergarteners playing on the playground, wondering how their Mamas were ever going to get those uniform shirts white again. I remembered those polos stained with playground dust and trails of dried chocolate milk and I couldn't help but wonder how in the world I'd gotten from then to now so fast. I wanted to call and warn the parents of those dusty, little creatures, "Don't be fooled...You don't have as much time as you think!"
When Blair graduated, I was comforted by the fact that Carson still had several years to go, but now this is the end of the line. It's had me thinking about this transition from all those years of having kids in school. Baking brownies, packing lunches, buying those little packs of valentines, teacher gifts, concession stand duty, eating nachos on bleachers, writing notes to explain absences, getting calls from the school nurse, washing sweaty uniforms, selling pizza kits, raffle tickets, and cookie dough. What's a mama to do when, for one year shy of two decades, she's defined herself as a mom of school age kids? What's she to do when her calendar is no longer filled with their activities? When one of the spokes of her identity wheel suddenly flies off? 

It will be different for sure.

So much life happens at school. It's where our kids spend 35+ hours per week. My children learned to be independent there. They lost teeth. They made friends. Found their strengths. Worked on their weaknesses. They were included. They were excluded. Learned to wait their turn. Stepped out of their comfort zones. They made the team. They didn't make the team. They earned medals, certificates, and pizza parties. Carson broke his thumb there. Blair's phone was confiscated for a week. They won. They learned to lose. Carson was known for his nut allergies. Blair was comforted during tornado drills. Some days, they'd come home elated. Other days, they'd be upset when they got in the car. They learned to respect authority. Learned about consequences. Navigated the awkward years. Built friendships. Found role models. They grew from children to young adults while walking those halls.  

Maybe what I treasure most is that they knew they could bow their heads there. They saw that patriotism was encouraged and reverence for sacrifice was expected and that faith was welcomed to come with them to school. Admirable traits and virtues were modeled for them there in that place. They were hugged and encouraged and called by name. There's no place so warm as the place where people know your name. They knew their school had the same value system as their home. They felt safe there. They felt loved there. And what greater blessings could a school give to a child?
This week is his last full week of school and May 18 will mark a new chapter for him. It will mark a new chapter for me, too, I suppose. We'll both be letting go of something we've had in our lives for a very long time.

I'll pop back in when we experience lulls in the activity.

Y'all have a good one!