I have never met a child who did not like to play dress up. A child's first experience of exploring who they are and what they want to be is played out when they pretend. All three of my kids loved to play dress-up and spent countless hours coming up with crazy costumes when they were little. Most girls go through a "princess" stage when all they want to do is pretend they're one of the many Disney princesses. complete with a magic wand and tiara. I've seen most little boys go through the "superhero" stage, and you may find them jumping off the sofa on any given day with their superhero cape blowing in the wind behind them! Children are the great imitators, and we must be careful what we model before them because they might just repeat what they see at exactly the wrong time and in the most embarrassing place. But being impersonators of their parents and others is how they begin to have dreams for themselves. Do I want to be a teacher like mommy? Let's play school. Do I want to be like daddy when I grow up? He's a brave policeman, so I'm gonna dress up just like him. Sometimes they mix and match and come up with unusual and hilarious combinations. A kitty costume with a sun hat? Alrighty, then. Research has shown that this very role-playing activity is healthy and desirable and, if I must say so myself, it's also extremely cute. As the kids get older, they enjoy dressing up for events such as school plays or themed birthday parties and might even try their hand at drama in high school. Believe me, ALL high-schoolers have drama, but I'm talking about the drama "club" that is sponsored by the school. To play the part of a character totally different from the person you perceive yourself to be can be quite the experience. Some even take their "wills to be unique" a little farther than others and try purple hair or body piercing or want a tatoo. But, hey, what's a little purple hair if she's an overall good kid? Youngsters from the cradle to graduation are always trying to determine who they really are, and it starts in the form of dress-up play. Even into college, they are continuing to find their own personalities My youngest decided in college that she wanted to have dread-locks so she began a mission to transform her silky dark hair into dreads.
Here is a picture of us awhile back (after her dread-lock experience and her hair had grown out). It was a couple of years before she moved to Houston and she had a super-cool friend who had dreads and she so wanted that look for herself. But, let's just be honest here, your hair needs to be a certain texture for dreads. She worked and worked with her hair but never could get them to set up, even after going to a hairdresser for help. I (being the sweet mother that I am, haha!) worked with her on one occasion for what seemed like forever and, with much backcombing, we finally got one piece of hair to lock up and it looked pretty good. But, alas, it fell out and the dread locks never came to be. I certainly didn't embrace the dread-locks look, but she wanted them and so I went along with it. After all, it didn't make her a bad person to wear her hair any way she wanted it. During that time, we attended the wedding of one of her high-school friends and I just know that family thought she was a mess coming to the wedding with that nappy hair! Today she has learned to allow the beautiful hair God has given her to thrive in its natural state. Oh, and BTW, she had to cut her hair short because of the "dreads" attempt and was sporting a short, short crop when she graduated college! Now, don't get me wrong, I like dread locks, I really do, but they have to be on the right head.
I am not suggesting that we don't give our children guidelines on how to dress or act or what some of their goals should be. That is totally necessary and it is well worth the battles which ensue when we are attempting to mold them into respectable people. I'm just saying pick your battles. There are some lessons we must teach them and there are some lessons they must learn on their own. And, hey, don't even get me started on those out there who wear their britches below their butt. I'm not even gonna go there. But as we take the challenge of bringing another human being into this world, we have one eventual goal: to rear them in a way that they become the kind of person who will make us proud enough to let them go out into the world on their own and find their individual successes. We are raising them to leave us. And all along they are testing the waters. They are looking for ways to find out what they want in life, to chart their own personal course, to find out who they are and who they are not. Being creative and seeking out new ways to do things is a huge part of it. So allowing them to dress up as a toddler is healthy for them and, if you ask me, loads of fun and laughter! Even though I don't especially like what Halloween stands for, I do enjoy seeing what costumes the kids come up with, and I have even been known to dress up myself. Pretending to be something other than what you are is exhilarating, especially if you can fool someone else, and in the process you begin to learn how to grow into the person you were meant to be. And when a little child plays dress-up, it is one of the most adorable things you can ever experience with them.
It's late summer around these parts. Technically, it's right on the edge of July leaving and August arriving, but school starts back next week so that means that summer is officially over as we know it for the children in our county. We have much summer left if you consider the hot temperatures, bounty from the garden, and the grass-cutting days ahead. It makes me sad each year when the kids go back to school. Even though I no longer have children who are in school, I do have grandchildren so I feel for them. No more days of just hanging out with no threat of homework hovering over you like an late afternoon thunderhead, no more days of sleeping in and eating breakfast at 11:00 in front of the TV, or heading to the community pool for a day of cooling off. Nothing says summer like going to the pool. And absolutely no more late nights with movie and popcorn in your p.j.'s. It's back to the grindstone next week and I hate it -- hate it -- that summer vacations are now so much shorter than when I was in school.
When I was in elementary school (a very long time ago), it seemed as though the days of summer dragged on forever and, when it was finally time to go back to school, I was actually ready to return to the rigors of the classroom. If I remember correctly, we never went back before Labor Day and, by the time summer ended for me and my sis, we were beginning to get bored with just hanging around the house and boredom led to arguing and fighting with my little brother so I'm sure my mom was more than ready for us to return to school! Plus, I loved school-clothes shopping and I loved school-supply shopping even more. The smell of No. 2 pencils gave me a high, and choosing and loading up my book satchel (yes, that's what they were called in those days) gave me a bad case of the butterflies and made going back to school even easier. I loved running my fingers across the spiral of a brand-new notebook and the smoothness of fresh filler paper. And just in case you're wondering, a book "satchel" was a book carrier that looked a lot like a small suitcase whose handle was on the top and which stood upright. It either lay down and opened like a briefcase or unzipped over the top, revealing pouches and filing separators for organization. And, don't laugh, but most of the time we girls wore dresses to school! I will never forget one little red-and-blue plaid jumper that my mom bought me for school. To this day, the thought of that little dress still causes me to wax nostalgic, bringing a tear to my eye thinking about shopping for school clothes with my mama. And, of course, there had to be Red Goose (real) leather Mary Janes to match, with little white socks turned down at the cuffs! A new metal lunchbox with my favorite character on it complete with a thermos finished my back-to-school preparations.
Every summer in late August as the season winds down and school is back in full swing, we have a day that whispers of the fall to come. The 90+degree days give in to cooler temperatures, thick cloud cover, and the reprieve might even entertain a light drizzle throughout the day. During this time each August I have a sense of impending autumn -- you know, when the air is cool and crisp and the humidity is low? It gives me the same case of butterflies that I experienced as a child. I look forward to this short-lived interlude every August, and it never fails to appear. It's like nature reminding me that I have cooler days and a whole new season coming to look forward to, with its own gratifications to enjoy. If I have the benefit of being at home when this time occurs, it's a great day to throw open the windows and indulge in a good book. The heat inevitably returns and by the time August is nearing its end, I am more than happy to welcome the new season and feel as though I can no longer stand another 95-degree day of 95% humidity! This little intercession of a day (or several days if we're lucky) is what I call the season of "In Between..." not at all autumn yet, but not really summer either.
But no matter how close we get to the third season of the year, I am never quite ready to welcome her, and am still very much attached to summer with all her late-season pleasures abounding. Now is the time to enjoy all the lush, homegrown goodness the earth is giving up this time of year. The image below of a half-eaten peach is a fine example (albeit not too appealing with the teeth marks). This lush piece of fruit was gifted to me by a friend whose hubby picked them up in South Georgia, and it was the perfect balance of sweet and tart. The south of the state is a haven for fresh peaches, melons, corn, and all kinds of fruits and veggies this time of year. But just the other day I purchased a very unsightly but hopefully delicious cantaloupe from a local farmer who grew it in the field right across the street from their vegetable stand in my own community. Now, I don't know if it'll be as good as it smells, only time will tell, but you can't get much fresher than plucked from the ground one morning and in your kitchen that afternoon! I also have a collection of oddly shaped tomatoes from the same local farmer. Not much to look at, but the best flavor! I'd much rather have an ugly tomato that tastes good than a beautiful one with no flavor, unh-unh.
I look forward to late-summer delights yet to come. Freed-up evenings walking at the park with cool breezes...still more delectable late harvest gifts from the garden...burgers and fresh corn on the grill... But it seems to me that time is all out of order when we have to enjoy some of these late summer offerings after the kids have returned to school.
But if the kids are lucky, mom will pack their school lunch brimming with the final gifts of a late bounty, and summer can live on a little longer in their hearts (and tummies!). Tuck in a little note with a special message for them. Guranteed to bring a smile to their face and make school-starting that much more bearable...
Warning: Graphic head images in this blogpost!
As we enter into a new stage of life we sometimes tend, or at least I do, to reflect upon the past, its accomplishments, the challenges that have formed us, and the future. In light of recently turning 60, I have been thinking about the fact that I am truly a blessed woman to be alive. It could've turned out so differently. Some of you have heard the story of my battle with breast cancer but, for those who have not, I would like to share it with you.
For all of you who have missed a mammogram, may I plead with you? Please don't do it again! I had only missed one and I didn't think that one little ol' mammogram would make that much difference, but I have learned the hard way that it certainly can. The summer of 2006 I felt what I thought was a lump in my right breast. No biggie. Lots of women have what is considered lumpy or dense breast tissue, so I wasn't alarmed. But to the insistence of my girlfriends (one of whom had been going through breast cancer herself) and much to my aggravation, I went for the mammogram I should've had the summer before. Of course, they immediately sent me for an ultrasound, followed by a biopsy. You know the scoop; it's all standard procedure. Many women have been through this very agenda only to find the lump is benign, but we live in a day where early treatment is crucial to surviving any kind of cancer and we are very blessed indeed to have this protocol. The testing found a 3cm cancerous tumor in my right breast with one almost as large in one of my lymph nodes. In just that short length of time, it had spread! Of course, many other tests followed and, much to my relief, it was found it had not spread any further than the lymph node and a regimen of care was planned by my very capable oncologists. Because of my faith and because I tend to be a positive person and also because my doctors were very encouraging in their prognosis for me, I had a tremendous peace. But I had no idea what the next year would hold or that it would soon become some of the hardest, darkest days of my life.
Because my tumors were of significant size, my doctor opted for chemo first to try to shrink them, planning for surgery shortly after the chemo was complete. He ordered six rounds of TAC therapy, at the time the most aggressive formula available for breast cancer. As the effects of the chemo began to take their toll on me, I will admit to you that it is very difficult to describe how it affected my body. I can only say this: I would not wish chemotherapy on my worst enemy. It positively drained me of every last ounce of energy I had, leaving me feeling very vulnerable and in many ways less than human. This story cannot be told without including the huge part my husband played in my care. He stood by me every step of the way, preparing any and every kind of food I thought I might be able to eat, and even taking me for long drives at 2:00 a.m. when sleep eluded me. He ferried me to chemo treatments and doctor's appointments. He was my knight in shining armor. He was the greatest example of what the vow in sickness and in health means. When my hair started to fall out, he even offered to shave my head. But here's the thing. He got one row of hair shaved when the electric razor died, leaving me with what I call a "reverse mohawk" and I had to wait till the razor recharged to finish the haircut I never would've chosen in a million years. We laughed and laughed about this mishap but I've technically never forgiven him for that one!
One of my saddest moments during treatment was missing my annual girls' trip to Blue Ridge that I have been taking every fall since I can't remember when. The weather was absolutely beautiful and, as I lay in my bed, I had quite the pity party that weekend. I was weak as a kitten with the windows thrown open staring at the gold and ruby trees outside my window and feeling the cool October breeze as it blew in, but feeling more sorrow for myself than anything. My gals reluctantly told me later that it was the prettiest fall they had ever seen in the history of our trips, and we haven't had one that beautiful since! But to include me, they stopped by on their way home from the 'Ridge, brought me treats and all climbed onto the bed with me. We had a good visit with lots of laughs as the cool breeze blew in a peace that was unforgettable. Christmas that year was the saddest one I can remember ever in my life. I was incapacitated as to much planning for the holidays and my poor hubby did the best he could, but I am a total Christmas freak and not being able to plan for the holidays left me quite depressed. I'll never forget the day after Christmas I was so distraught and irritable that I ran my entire family out of the house and sat in my chair alone with my cat all day. It was not a pretty sight. As days droned into weeks, the regimen of chemo continued to affect me physically and emotionally. I was nauseated, extremely weak, and very depressed. After I completed the fourth round, I took my health into my own hands and chose to forego the last two treatments. I will never know if I did the right thing, but I know I did the right thing for me. I made the decision to finish my chemo with the four rounds instead of six because I felt as though my overall health was declining and to continue was something I simply could not do. Within weeks of finishing my chemo, I was scheduled to have surgery. After much thought and prayer, I decided to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. This was one of the hardest decisions of my life. To decide to willingly have a part of your body removed, the part that had nourished all my babies and had been an intimate part of my womanhood for forty years was a hard choice to say the least. I was scheduled for surgery the early part of February 2007. In the same procedure I would begin reconstructive surgery, with plans to complete it within the next six months.
The breast surgery was everything I dreamed it would be, and worse! I think one of the ickiest things about having this kind of surgery was the nasty little drains they sent me home with. There were four little suction drains coming out of small open incisions and they drained fluid from my body. It was totally disgusting but, once again, my sweet hubby stepped up and helped with this unbelievably raunchy job. When you get married, you never think about having to empty drainage of yucky who-knows-what from your wife's body. Now you know why I love this man so much! I called these little drains my "possums" because they reminded me of baby opossums who attach to their mother's nipples and hang on for the ride. It's true, look it up! When I did have to go out for my doctor's appointments, I plopped them into a fanny pack and they went with me. I brought the fanny pack back into style that year (ha!)! I was in a good deal of pain when I got home so, when I found a position of comfort, I would sometimes stay there for hours. Soon enough, I learned that was not a very smart thing to do....I ended up back in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism, something in and of itself that could've taken me right out of this world, but God in his great mercy had other plans. After a week in the hospital and an allergic reaction to the blood thinner Coumadin, I finally came home for good (but with daily blood-thinning injections) and finally began the healing process. It was slow, but I started feeling well enough to help Hollie complete her plans for the wedding, and by her wedding day in April I was almost (and I used that word very loosely) feeling normal again. Lesson learned here: NEVER, EVER sit still after surgery...move that body one way or another!
Why do I share this with you? Because I know that far and wide there are women who have been through the same thing and you will find camaraderie in my story. Those who have been through breast cancer or any cancer for that matter enter into a family of sorts, not one in which you want membership but you have it nonetheless. Also, I choose to share my story because there are those of you out there who have just been or will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and I want to encourage you. You CAN do this. It will not be easy. Some days you will want to give up, but you simply cannot give up. Others need you; others are counting on you; others love you deeply and would be devastated without you. It will be one of the hardest things you have ever endured but, if I can do it, so can you. I guess more than anything, however, I am just extremely thankful to have been given a second chance. Because of great healthcare and wonderful doctors in a country where we can receive treatment no matter who we are or how much money we have, but mostly because of the sheer and utter grace of God, I have lived to tell this story. And for that, I will be eternally grateful. I was there for my daughter's wedding and the birth of two more grandchildren, and I look forward to many more wonderful life experiences. May I never, ever forget where I was, all those who helped me through the hardest time of my life (and they are too many to count), and the hope that having another chance at life brings.
Life, I would say, is good. It's very, very good.
(Editor's Note: It was during my breast cancer experience that I discovered my love for blogging. I would write down my thoughts, good and bad, and email updates to family and close friends. Oh, and BTW, I promise not to mention turning 60 anymore!)
You can never have too much birthday. And by "too much birthday," I'm talking about "the celebrating of the birthday," not the actual birthday itself because indeed you can have too many birthdays. So glad we don't have two birthdays a year; in that case I would be 120 right now. Sometimes I feel 120 years old!
Many days I feel, hmmm, about 31 exactly...old enough to be accepted as a somewhat-mature adult with a little experience under her belt but still young enough to have ample energy. The thirties and forties rock! If you are in your thirties or forties, girl, be glad because you're in your prime! But all it takes somedays to make me feel my age again is to have a week or so where I'm racing with the clock every single day to be somewhere, get something done and have my inner clock on "repeat" so that it starts all over the next day. On these days I really feel my age (60 but not a day older!). And if I can squeeze it in, a wee nap is required or at least an earlier bed time. Lack of the proper sleep will age me every time. As I have grown a little older and I'd like to think much smarter, I have found the significance of slowing down a bit, being able to stretch things out if you will, and being blessed to not have to push myself as hard. I am very grateful to be at a place in my life where I am able to do that. I also MUST do it, because anything else makes me a grouchy Greta and nobody likes a grouchy Greta. I myself don't even like grouchy Greta. If your name is Greta, please do forgive.
So, in spite of what I feared, I totally survived my 60th birthday. Except for the sweet birthday party my hubby gave me with family all around and a couple of my besties as well, life dawned the day after just as it has for the last 60 years. And except that I have a few more aches and pains now and I sometimes get a shock when I glance in the mirror (is that REALLY me?), things remain pretty much the same. Well, one other thing: knowing my son is coming up on his 40th birthday this fall is simply hard to believe. Ugh, that does make me feel old! But there are so many things that are wonderful about being older. First of all, you've earned the right to have your own opinion and not be dissed for it. Of course, maybe you are dissed for it, but it just might be that you don't care as much about what others think! So what if you don't agree with me? It's not the first time, and it certainly won't be the last! You also find that folks seek out your wisdom much more during the 50-and-older years so it does make you feel as though you have gleaned a little life experience over the many birthdays you've logged and have something to contribute. You're excused for a lot of things that younger people would not be excused for (being tired more often, forgetting things, playing dumb if it's something you do not want people to know, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time). I could go on and on about the attributes of growing older because I've experienced them all. But one fact remains regardless of who it is: Everyone gets older and time is no respecter of persons. When it's your time to turn 60, you turn 60. The only alternative to getting older is -- well, you know. I'd rather be 6-0 above the ground than six feet under any day. A young man serving my food recently said "Any day I'm above the ground and not below it is a good day." I couldn't agree more.
But as I officially have passed the milestone of 60 and in most places have earned the title of "Senior Adult," I can mostly say that life has been extremely good to me, and that my blessings at this stage of my life are too many to count. Take my friends, for example. This time 30 years ago, I could not truthfully say that I had the best friends a gal could ever wish for. Now I can. At least one lasting friendship is the one thing in life that everyone hopes for but not everyone achieves, and something which takes many years to accomplish if you ever do actually accomplish it. As I've said before, close friends rank right up there with family and really are family because in times of crises, no one on the outside looking in can even distinguish the difference between those who have been with you since the beginning of time and those who have just been around since the second or third act. For this reason, I consider the latter half might possibly be the best. Now, I know a lot of folks would disagree with me on that one but, hey, I'm a senior adult now and I'm entitled to my opnion. Plus, it doesn't matter if I liked the earlier years better, they are gone forever and this is what I have right now at this moment in time. Might as well try to enjoy it, right?
And when it comes to enjoying it, you also have the privilege at this stage of life to continue celebrating your birthday as long as you want to, did you know that? Yes, you officially have permission to do that very thing. It is now a couple of weeks past my actual birthday but tonight I am going to a birthday dinner with my best friends because we are all busy and this is the first night we could all get together. NICE. I don't mind celebrating my birthday again. After all, it means another delicious meal, a most decadent dessert to share around a table, and the best conversation and laughter ever known to exist. Another perk of getting older? Being able to laugh hysterically in public and nobody says a word! My hubby says every single year that I celebrate my birthday longer than anyone else he knows (I think he's just jealous, haha). But, hey, if you can stretch it out a little longer, why wouldn't you?
After all, 60th birthdays only come around once in a lifetime.
Do you consider yourself a giver? When I say the word giver, it brings many pictures to my mind. Gift-giving for Christmas and birthdays and anniversaries and graduations; giving of your money and resources to help others; giving of your time and wisdom. The word giving encompasses really anything and everything that involves the passing of something to another. There was even a movie out in the last year called The Giver. I enjoyed the movie and thought it one worth seeing, but it had the connotation of the future that a lot of movies today have -- a sad perspective of our society in futuristic times -- everything lost, in ruins, and humanity facing hopelessness. But in The Giver, the "giver" was the one person who had the gift of seeing everything as it really was and, along with that, the wisdom to lead the people. News flash...we all have been given someone like that and his name is Jehovah God. I, for one, would like to just leave seeing the future to God anyway. I don't care to have that job.
But at some point in everyone's life, we are faced with the opportunity to give. Will you give of your resources, money, time, and efforts to help another's cause, dream, hope or daily existence? I recently read a short story about a man who made his wife swear to bury him with all his money. I know this was just a story and I'm almost sure it wasn't even true, but the fact of the matter is that you cannot take it all with you. Whatever you have left behind will go to the next of kin or to the state to figure out who will get it if you don't have a will. I know of another man personally who passed away and, not having a will, the state has seized the estate and is distributing it among his heirs, some of whom have never even met the man. It turns out this man was fairly wealthy but in the end he had absolutely no say-so as to who would get his money. But one thing is for certain; he did not take it with him. Then we've heard of the person who has money and decides not to will it to another upon their demise but to give it all away while they are still alive and able to decide how they want their money spent. Most of the average folks in America today don't have enough money to give lavishly financially; they are doing well to make ends meet and put food on the table. But giving of one's self is so much more than money and I have found that the kind of giving that doesn't require money but requires one's time, hard work, and presence might just be the purest form of gifting. A monetary gift of several hundred thousand dollars when you're a millionaire is nothing to shake a stick at but, when you set aside a day to help someone who truly needs you, that kind of giving cannot be tagged with a monetary price because we all, the rich and not-so-rich as well, have the same number of hours in a day and the same number of days in a week. And this is the kind of giving that every single one of us can do.
But what I find many times when people give, and something that I will openly admit I have unknowingly done myself before, is that sometimes we give with strings attached. We say to the recipient of our gift (maybe not to their face, but in our own minds) "I will do this for you, but you better not forget it and, in fact, you better do the same for me in the future." We remind them when they don't give back to us that we are owed something because we helped them. And might I suggest that this kind of giving is really not giving at all? That kind of gift is what we call a loan, and it is not fair to the receiver if he doesn't know it's a loan. It becomes giving with the attachment of a payback in the future, and this attitude I believe negates whatever was gifted in the first place. Giving with no strings attached, on the other hand, frees you to continue giving because you no longer have to keep track of what you give in the effort to make sure you receive what you think you are owed in return. Giving freely and clearly is the best and maybe only way that true giving really works. Because it is highly likely that, even though you forget what you did, that person never will forget it. And for that reason, it has a higher return in that it makes them a better person because they were helped freely and clearly and will hopefully pay the action forward. Plus, if you are never paid back and are not worried about being paid back, then it will not be a matter that eats away at you. When we give to others with strings attached, those very strings we use to hold others will instead keep us in bondage. Gifts with strings become burdens that weigh you down, tie you in knots, and eventually incarcerate the giver in the jail of anger, resentment, and bitterness. I have reminded people of things they have done for me in the past and, with a bewildered look on their face, they admit they don't even remember doing it. That is true giving.
"Give, and it shall be be given unto you." Not with gift-to-gift equality but what you receive is a joy and satisfaction in return that deepens your life perspective and teaches you that giving in its truest form positively has no strings attached.
Just some thought for your Monday.
If I had not raised three kids who were once the age of two and been privy to the antics of my other two grandkids when they were also two, I would wonder how parents ever survived this momentous stage of a child's life. I will sum up the survival of this stage of life in one word: PATIENCE! Now, patience can also be described as longsuffering, longevity, or consistency and there are myriad other words that could suffice. But however you wish to name it, the truth of the matter is two-year-olds are a challenge! If you have children or grandchildren who have survived the terrible two's, then you know what I'm talking about. If you are pregnant with your first child, your child has not yet reached the age of two or you have aspirations of producing a child anytime in the future, let this be a warning: Beware of the two-year-old! If you are deep in the middle of long, hard, provoking days rearing a two-year-old at this very moment, my sentiment to you: You can do this! Press on, dear friend, press on!
In light of my vast knowledge (ha!) of the two-year-old psyche, I was not destroyed when I dropped the kids off at the airport this morning and my little angel pushed my face to the side as I tried to kiss her. She simply refused to hug her nana goodbye and didn't seemed to be bothered by the fact we probably won't see each other for a couple of months. I guess she was done with the nana bear cuddles. Or I'd like to think she was just totally focused on her short ride to the jetway where she would enter the world of flying to which she has become quite accustomed and actually cries to go up, up, up in the plane. She was more than happy to ride in the stroller because she knew the stroller would get her to the plane faster than her chubby little legs and that was her sole intent at the moment (FYI: She had a mini meltdown on the jetway waiting to board on the flight up. Even flying is not fast enough for this little winged creature). Two-year-olds have one daily agenda when they begin their day. They want to do what they want to do, and they want to do what they want to do now and not a minute later! If they are in the mood to play, they want to play now and please don't require them to be elsewhere. If they want to eat, you better make it quick and something delicious that they want. If they want to look at pictures on nana's phone, it doesn't matter one iota to them that nana is needing her phone for, well, making phone calls. Don't even tell a two-year-old that you're gonna do something and then not do it, because you are asking for your day to go straight downhill. The funny thing about these little creatures is they are smart enough to know the difference in what you said you were gonna do and what you actually do.
But in case I have totally discouraged you of the hopes-and-dreams-of-having-children bunch, there is a good side to this story. Two-year-olds are incredibly resistable and I would venture to say it is not just one of the most challenging years of rearing a child but also the most adorable as well. At this stage of life they are vocal, smart, friendly, and at times exceptionally loving. When they do an act of kindness, it will melt you into a puddle and give you the strength you need to face another day with a demanding toddler. All it takes for you to become putty in their hands is for them to repeat a totally cute rhyme or a random rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Sta-wa, and all else fades into the background. And occasionally, contrary to what they consistently tell you to your face, they find themselves realizing their need for mommy or daddy (or nana for that matter), and they deliver the most delicious wet kisses and surprisingly protracted hugs you have literally ever received and everything is, once again, well with the world.
I guess the part of this time in a toddler's life that is so demanding and tiring is the parodox that always brings a smile to my face. They absolutely believe they are as big and intelligent as you, yet they are walking around with a load in their diaper. Cracks me up when I think of a little person acting so dang big, but can't even put their pee and poo in the toilet yet! Such a contradiction of what they think they are and what they are actually capable of, and it makes me love them so much more! They need us, even if at times they truly believe they not only don't need us, but they don't want us as well! And this is where the patience comes in. If you have told a two-year-old "No" once in a day, you've told them a hundred times! If you filled a large cistern with the patience needed to deal with one of these amazing little creations, it would overflow each and every day. The only time it would not be full is when they were sleeping, as their little bodies recharge for the next day ahead, when they will once again drive their parents to the edge of the cliff and threaten to throw them over!
I commend those of you who are doing a fine job with two-year-olds...those of you who love enough to have your face pushed aside once in awhile and for the zillioneth time tell your toddler that action is unacceptable...for those of you who insist they eat their broccoli before their bread...for those of you who stand firm and strong, clothed with all the battle gear needed to deal with every two-year old tantrum that comes your way.
For you, my friend, are in what I call the great war of "you versus the terrible two's." And trust me, the battle is hard, undeniably long and at times gut-wrenching, but the rewards are some of the best life has to offer.
(Editor's Note: No toddlers were harmed in the producing of this blogpost, and absolutely no parents went over the cliff!)
I resisted the urge to cry as I said goodbye, walked down the long corridor to my car and pulled out of the assisted living facility where we had spent the day moving my dad into his little apartment. Actually, I think I was too tired to cry if that's possible, or maybe I just wouldn't let my mind go to the little corner of self-doubt that tried to force its way to the front of my heart. Had we done the right thing? Will Daddy be okay? Will he thrive? That was my greatest hope as I drove away. I felt like a young mother leaving her child at preschool for the very first time, hoping and praying that they will do well, be accepted and make new friends. I thought to myself I'll think about it tomorrow when my brain is functioning at 100 percent. Right now only a Chick-Fil-A ice cream will help me feel better!
Being a couple who flips houses for part of their living, we agreed that the move was actually the easiest one ever. If they could all be that easy! We had one single bed, a club chair, Daddy's old recliner, several small tables and spare chairs, a dresser, a small refrigerator and microwave, and exactly five Rubbermaid containers with clothes and miscellaneous incidentals. It took the total of maybe one hour for the guys to load it and then move it all in. But setting up this little apartment for Daddy marks a new era in his life...losing a great part of the freedom he has known for 70 years. We are fully aware that it could go one of two ways. He might not like it. Gone are the days he can just hop into his car and drive to the grocery store. Gone are the days that he can cook his own meals, do all his grooming on his own, or just basically lock himself away from everyone if he wants to. He will be constantly checked on, constantly interrupted from his TV-watching, constantly reminded to bathe, dress, and come to the dining room for meals. But he may just love it. The bright side is he will never be alone (which he's made crystal clear he doesn't like), he will have someone checking on him to make sure he has assistance for anything he needs, he will be prepared three healthy meals a day, will have help in bathing, grooming, and dressing. Much to my delight, he will also have someone who administers his meds every single day at the same time consistently. I am at peace.
Over the past 14 months since my mother's passing, caring for my dad has been mostly the duty of my brother. But all three of us (my siblings and I and our spouses) have truly felt like new parents trying to figure out on the fly how to care for this wonderful human being. But the weirdest part of caring for an aging adult is that this is the person who once made sure you were safe, who spent his hard-earned money to make sure you were cared for, and to whom you looked for wisdom and advice when you needed it most. I have found that aging adults are much like those preschoolers in quite a few ways: They many times want their way and act out if they don't get it, they like junk food sometimes more than healthy food, and they believe they are able to do so much more than they actually are. Just like a small child, they need to be protected, handled with tough love, and reminded every single day that what you do for them may not be easy but it's because of your great love for them that you have to make hard decisions for their well-being. Overall, my dad is a pretty compliant kind of guy, and he knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that his children love him intensely. Having to give up his freedom and car? Not quite so easy. But one thing remains true. You have this wonderful man who still has plenty of wisdom and sound advice to give, and we are so very blessd to be able to tap into the vast well of his lifetime experience.
One of the perks of my dad's new home is the many things planned in which he is able to participate. There is a vast array of appealing activites for older adults: weekly movies complete with AYCE popcorn, concerts, exercise classes, outings to various attractions, and regular social hours to name just a few. Daddy can have his hair cut on the property, shoot a game of pool in the billiard area, and settle in with a good book in the library. There are several beautiful common areas if he feels like socializing. And because he is now closer to my home, we can visit more often and with a higher quality. In the past year, a visit to his home had me weighed down with all the many chores that needed to be done that Daddy now struggles to complete without my mom. I look forward to picking him up for lunch at his favorite restaurant some days (Kentucky Fried Chicken!), taking him to the local Wally World for his shopping needs and of course bringing him home with me for the occasional family weekend. But in between those times, he is safe and sound. In a couple of weeks, daddy will turn 89 years old. So at the ripe ol' age of almost nine decades, he is beginning again.
As moving day brought many new changes to ponder for both my dad and myself as well, we have some very early signs of just how this might go. After my hubby took daddy down for a game of pool so that Hollie and I could finish up our careful arranging of what we believe is his "well-appointed" bachelor's pad, my hubby had to run out to his car for something. Upon returning, he found my dad had strolled over to a table where three women were playing cards and had engaged them in conversation. He also attended the exercise class his first morning there. Whuuuut? Are you kidding me?!!
I think my daddy is gonna be JUST FINE..
When I go shopping, it goes one of two ways: I have money or I don't have money, which means that technically I am window-shopping and I don't particularly enjoy window-shopping. That's because usually when I am just window-shopping, I will inevitably find something great to buy. I wander the aisles seeing item after item that I want or think I need. I find treasures for the kitchen, bedroom, and every other room of the house and then, of course, personal items as well. I could totally use that super-cute tunic in my favorite color. WHY I DO THIS IS BEYOND ME. It is utter torture. But here's the thing. I have noticed when I do have extra money, I am just as picky about finding a bargain as when I have very little money. So what does this tell me about myself? It tells me I have been on a budget my entire life!
I hate budgets. When the children were young, we were on a fairly strict budget. Even back in the nineties our economy revolved around both parents working and it was a task making ends meet as a one-income family. I worked numerous part-time jobs from home, but never full-time until much later after my kids had left for college. I enjoyed my stay-at-home-mom status and have never regretted those days because being a mom was all I really ever wanted to do until later in life when I caught the photography/writing bug. But the small amount of money I did make was mine-all-mine. If I wanted to buy all bubble gum with it, it was mine to do so! There is much to be said about making and having your very own money over which you have complete control. It has always given me great satisfaction to make a purchase or pay a bill with money that I earned myself. So I guess the wanting-a-deal/cheapskate-in-me/on-a-budget gal that I have become I came by naturally over a progression of years. I have learned over those years that a good budget allows you to not only have money for the necessary things, but it puts some aside for the unnecessary as well, and we all need a little fun money. The hard part of a budget is the waiting part, and I am not a good waiter (although I have always wondered if I would make a good waiter, as in a restaurant, because I do like to serve people food). I do not like to wait in lines, at doctor's offices, or in restaurants when I'm hungry. Waiting takes patience and, as I have said many times before, even though patience is believed to be a virtue, it is not one of my virtues. I will agree, however, that budgets are a totally necessary evil, maybe even for the rich. I have heard stories of people blowing through their wealth or an unexpected inheritance and ending up in worse shape than before they acquired wealth. But budgets are an especially good thing for the self-employed like my husband and me. Being self-employed sometimes brings a feast; sometimes it brings famine.
In spite of my budget-abhorring history, those budgets have forced me to be careful how I spend my money. I learned as a young mom that waiting for what I wanted was always best, but once again confirm that I was not good at it then and neither am I now. An even more important lesson than that, though, is I have learned over the years to live with less. Do I really need or even want so many things that it begins to make my life complicated? I have decided I do not. I would rather spend my money on "doing" things more than "having" things. So when I do have the rare occasion to shop a bit and do a little damage, I have a three-step system. No. 1, I make sure it's something I really really really WANT or something I really (only one really) NEED. Needing is definitely more important than just wanting, wouldn't you agree? Step No. 2 involves asking is what I'm about to purchase something I could make myself or is it something worth buying because I cannot make it myself? I will never, ever buy an expensive cup of coffee, just ain't gonna happen when I can make a perfectly good, even better, cup at home with Mr. Coffee and Mr. Keurig. A really good glass of riesling on the other hand, I'll put up the $, because, after all, to buy a whole bottle of really good riesling to take home would be expensive. Plus, I don't always keep wine in the house; it's for special occasions usually. So when it comes to a great glass of wine, the atmosphere surrounding that glass of wine is important as well and I find worth the extra buckaroos! Step No. 3 involves whether or not I think the object I am considering is classic enough and well-loved enough to stay with me awhile. Gone are the days of buying every trinket or faddish item out there and then it ends up in the next garage sale. Remember those talking fish from the nineties? Never did buy one, and I'm so glad I didn't. Can't tell you how many I've seen at garage sales! If I'm gonna spend my hard-earned money on anything, it needs to be a keeper. Good art and dishes are probably my weak spot. I mean, you really can't have too much art or too many dishes, right? Don't answer that. When Hollie and I went shopping recently, she tried her best to buy me a birthday gift. I chose an orange spatula for the kitchen because, well, I really needed another spatula. She wanted to buy me something else, but I was happy!
So I was thinking the other day why I usually end up not buying much even when I have money to spend. The conclusion I've reached? It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks! Plus, there is very little that I really need, so the three-step process helps as well, Besides, if you are not sure, it's best not to buy. Every time I stick to this rule, I almost always end up finding the perfect item at the perfect price at a later time in the future. Cha-ching! There's no feeling like the thrill of the hunt and finding the deal of the century. The cuter than ever coffee plaque in the picture was a steal at Hobby Lobby I found recently. And what made it a steal? They were 50% off, so I got two pieces of wall art for the price of one! Word art is another one of my weaknesses. To have words that inspire me every day as I work or make me smile when I rise in the morning is something worth having in my opinion. It's beautiful and inspirational and gives back to me every day with its quiet voice of encouragement!
Now, this just might be the deal of the century. My two daughters are very cold-natured, so when they come home they end up putting my electric blanket under the fitted sheet on the bed to stay warm. What's that old saying, being cold-natured is the mother of invention, or something like that?! I truly do hate buying things that are necessary, but unseen. After all, I am all about pretty. But this mattress pad is good quality, heated, and I got it for under ten bucks! I can spend ten bucks and have no regrets. You can always find a treasure for ten bucks.
I totally rest my case.
Recent days have proven to be times of many challenges. As we've taken on extra duties preparing to move my father into assisted living and mentally preparing for the work ahead putting his house on the market, my brother asked if daddy could come to our house for the 4th of July weekend. Of course, he can. My dad is welcome in my home any time, and we thoroughly enjoyed his presence. Plus, my brother has been daddy's caregiver for the past year and deserved a break. I also have been expecting my daughter-in-law and Emma and Ben for an early summer visit. In the midst of all this jam-packed life, my sweet hubby is diagnosed with a retinal vein occlusion (in laymen's terms, an obstruction in one of the veins leading to the optice nerve). The nerve of him (no pun intended), with all we have to do! But of course, our attentions turned to him over the holiday weekend because of the potential seriousness of this and, after a trip to the eye doctor with blurred vision in his right eye, we were sent directly to the ER for tests. The coming weeks hold more tests in order to determine what actually is going on in that body of his. In their "great concern for" and out of their "great love for" their father, both girls flew home (along with little Preston) to make sure their dad was following doctor's orders and that he is not being too much of a stubborn patient for me. Good luck with that one, girls... I'm sure they just wanted to see his face, but we are always blessed by their visits (and it didn't hurt that they just happened to be here for my birthday!).
So the house has become a bit active since all have arrived. To top it all off as if we had not had enough scares, Angela called me to inform me she had had an "incident" while driving up from South Georgia where she had to pull the car off the road because she felt ill. The next thing she remembers is waking up to the kids calling her name, trying to rouse her. They also had called someone for help, bless their little hearts. They are smart ones, those two. Thank God she had warning signs and was able to pull off before having an accident. Ditto for the hubs. So grateful that his issue was considered a warning, as opposed to health issues that give no warning signs at all. Both of them it seems are having major issues with their blood pressure and have to get to the bottom of all this "stat", as they say in the hospital. I also found out (after the fact) that Abbie's flight to Atlanta was the scariest she had ever been on. The turbulence was so bad at one point that she came up off her seat. People were screaming, and objects were flying. On her trip back to the airport we heard that United Airlines had grounded all -- repeat, ALL -- flights in the US, due to computer problems. VERY DISTURBING INDEED. In the midst of it all, I had a birthday celebration with family and a couple of my closest friends. It was a beam of light and a needed reprieve from all the insanity.
Family life becomes a bit riotuous at times, wouldn't you say? Just when we are patting ourselves on the back because we think we are doing a fairly decent job of juggling all the responsibilities life throws our way and we think we are coping fairly well with the present and pressing issues, we are totally knocked for a loop we didn't expect, and everything stands still for a moment while we deal with the immediate and urgent problem at hand. But to have family who will jump in and pull together when times get challenging is a gift upon which we cannot place a price. I know there are people out there who are alone with no family, and my heart breaks for those folks. Even though they may have casual friends or acquaintances whom they see from time to time, they don't have anyone they consider family and that is so unfortunate because I believe family is the glue that holds you together when life starts to crumble. But good family relations don't happen overnight. They are the product of much building, struggling, breaking down and building again, and doing it over and over through the years and decades, as they become stronger and stronger through each difficulty and victory. The happy truth though is that, even though you may not have any blood family, families can be formed just the same with those people whom you consider family. They are the ones who always have your back, whose primary goal is to lift you up, and who cover you when you need shelter from the storm. And the best part about those kinds of families (unlike blood relatives)? You can choose them yourself! Just because you are born of the same blood doesn't automatically make you family with that person. I wish it were so, but far too many times it's not the case. I know people who are estranged from blood relatives but who have people in their lives whom they consider their real family. How can this be? Because real family is marked by how you treat each other, how you care for each other, and how you interact with each other. They are the ones who rejoice with you when life is smooth-sailing, who hold you up when you feel you're sinking into the murky waters, and who are there for every catastrophe, life change, and joyful moment in between. Family is forever, whether it's by blood or by choice. And if you are blessed enough to have blood relatives AND friends who are family, then you are truly blessed. I would fall into that category because I just happen to have both. You may not bear any blood relation to me, but you know who you are.
At the end of this busier-than-normal, less-than-perfect week, and in spite of my one mini-meltdown, I am happy to announce that everyone has been deemed overall healthy and in no immediate danger, everyone has arrived at their destinations safe and sound, and life remains good because once again family has pulled together and seen each other through.. "Family" has once again been the mending glue, piecing together all the crazy parts of this puzzle we call life.
And, for the umpteenth time, we are sincerely humbled by the blessings we have.
Over the many years our nation has embraced the gift of liberty, much has been said about that freedom and the cost that it bears. We would be pressed to find anyone who loves this great land who would not agree that many have paid and many more will pay the supreme sacrifice of their very own life to protect and serve our country. But in light of the many atrocities that our nation has experienced in recent days, months, and years, might I suggest that many people have given the ultimate sacrifice of their life just by the mere fact that they were out enjoying those very freedoms? No, they were not fighting a war on foreign soil or in any conflict of which they were aware. They were worshiping on a Wednesday night in their local church, running a marathon for which they had trained an entire year, or just going to school or work as usual on a regular fall morning. These people too are just as much a casualty of war as our brave men and women in uniform, and deserve our sincere gratitude and remembrance. Because of freedom, they gave their lives. Because we as a people grant every man. woman, boy, and girl the great gift to be free, many have had to relinquish their own gift of freedom because others abused theirs.
Just as we are grateful for every soldier who has given their life to protect the freedoms we cherish in this country, we also owe our remembrance to others who have been sacrificed as well for the cause of freedom. The parishioners who attended mid-week Bible study on that fateful night in Charleston, those who ran the Boston Marathon or who were there to enjoy the great outdoors as spectators, the men and women who entered the Towers on just another day of work, or the innocent children who thought they were in safe sanctuary within their schools, they too are owed our gratitude. Because out of their unknowing fate to be present where they were at that particular moment in history, they entered the Great Hall of Heroes who have paid the ultimate price so that Liberty can exist in this country every day of every year through decades past and decades to come. Because of that great freedom, no one is made to walk around wearing warnings tattooed on their forehead: Beware of me; I might be a killer. No one has to hang a sign around their neck revealing to others that the motives of their heart are evil. No, THAT is the cost of freedom. Everyone is free to walk the streets regardless of their possible evil intentions, the bitter hatred brewing in their hearts, or their biased and slanted perceptions of what their freedoms allow them to do. We will all have to answer one day for the way we choose to use our freedoms -- did we use them for good or allow them to use us for evil? Should we do away with freedom and allow it to no longer flow through the halls of our schools, our businesses, our community centers and churches? To do so would be to destroy the vision our forefathers fought so hard to make reality -- freedom for all who walk this great land.
So, as we remember not only those devoted soldiers who enter harm's way every single day to protect us, we also honor those who have given their lives for freedom just because they were enjoying those very freedoms that were won with so great a price To those who were just going to work or school, casually enjoying a beloved activity, or simply worshiping on a warm summer night, we offer remembrance. We thank those who were sacrificed just by being where they were at an inauspicious time in history and, because of that, have been written down in history's heroic ledger along with all the others who have sacrificed and paid the ultimate price for freedom. We promise you that your sacrifice will never be forgotten. When we talk of the great heroes of this land, we will remember you. When we talk of the ultimate sacrifices of those who have given their lives, we will think of you. When we tell our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the glorious freedoms achieved by hours of hard work and sweat, fear, and sacrifice, we will remind them of the unseen heroes that you are. Let us commemorate the birthday of our nation 2015 with fireworks, parties and festive celebrations, but also with reverence and awe for those who have not only given their lives in order to achieve and protect freedom, but those who have given their lives because we possess freedom.
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Posted by CC
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