My hubby and I have a contest on Sunday mornings to see who can make it to the car first and on time. It's usually me who wins because I think it might qualify as blasphemy if you are chronically late to church all the time. This morning my husband made what could be considered a profound statement, as it hits the female condition quite squarely on the head. He said that women run late because the last 10 minutes of getting ready are spent primping. And, according to him, these 10 minutes are added on even if time does not allow for them. He might be right on this one.
I do have a little ritual that completes my "getting ready to go somewhere" almost every time I leave the house. Even if I don't have on makeup or just pared down a bit to run errands, I do these three things: 1) Take a look in the mirror to make sure the overall appearance passes go; 2) Take a closer second look in the mirror to make sure there are no boogies or food in my teeth (that's boogies in the nose, not in the teeth); 3) Take a final look as I'm going out the door. What, you don't do that? You know you do. It's our right as women and I would venture to say it's your ritual as well, so let's be real. Men, on the other hand, are not quite as meticulous. If they've showered, shaved, and are covered with clothing of some sort, then they're good to go. No second looks for them. And I'm almost glad for that, because a man who primps too much...hmmm.
I'll never forget one day many years ago when my father owned a business for which me, my brother, my brother-in-law, and my mom worked at various times. This was during a period when my brother and I both were working with daddy. It was a retail storefront and we had a small shop in the back of the store where my dad and my bro' finished lenses for eyeglasses (the business was an optical shop). I worked out front greeting customers, and was generally the receptionist-slash-secretary-slash-gofer if you know what I mean. The shop "in the back" is also where we had a restroom, ate our lunch, and did paperwork. But most importantly it was where we checked our appearance in the mirror before heading out to address a customer's needs. After all, we were professionals. One day we had popped some popcorn in our resident microwave and I noticed that my brother had rushed out to greet someone. It was only when he came "back to the back" that I noticed a large kernel of popcorn stuck right in his teeth inserted just so, that it most assuredly was the first and only thing that customer was able to focus on. As I noticed my brother's dilemma, I began to laugh uncontrollably, not so much at the popcorn but at the look on his face. "What?" was all he could say. I am sure he had given the customer the most-professional service with courteous concern and earnestness to help, but quite possibly the thing that stood out to them most was the popcorn kernel securely lodged in his shiny brights. I also am reminded of the many times a certain man in my life took out upon his day of mighty valor with his fly down. And what about the time someone I know promptly strolled out of the men's room dragging a long piece of toilet paper tucked snugly into the waistband of his pants. I will not mention specific names here in order to protect the guilty.
So...call me a primper, call me vain, but is it not worth a second or even a third glance into the looking glass to make sure one is put together from head to toe and ready to face the day? I would say so. And we, as women, must surely stick together as we face this world that is mostly dominated by the male species. Will you be sure and politely tell me if you spot something in my teeth that is not supposed to be there? Anything other than gum tissue, saliva, or a piece of minty-fresh gum would qualify as foreign material. It is an unspoken duty as female friends for us to do this for each other! As for the men, we'll just let them go their own way, allowing the little mishaps of not going the 100 percent it takes to be well put together. It will hopefully convince them that our "primping procedures" are well worth the 10-minute wait.
If you happen to be a man who happens to read this ladies blog who happens to qualify as a primper, well then, disregard the above statement.
There are times when I absolutely love the house full of noise. Christmastime when all the kids and grandkids are home. The laughter of children and the boisterous conversation of adults. And when I have my Bible study group over for a social...and social it is! Those young moms are full of conversation, and practically giddy at the reality of a girl's night out. And when my hubby and I are watching our favorite shows on TV in the evening and the volume is up high with the good guys chasing the bad guys and spontaneous hilarious laughter blaring out at us (or maybe it's up high because we're getting a bit hard of hearing). Or maybe the times when we are working on a project and turn up the ipod or Pandora and boogy while we work to the sounds of Motown. Those are good times.
But every so often, I find myself completely alone in the house, and that is where I get in tune with my creative side, and where I find a great peace and a clearing of the mind. I listen for those little inner voices that call out to me new ideas, and they do not rest until those ideas are tried and proven (or not). Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't, but it's always fun putting an idea to the test. I also find that time alone gives me much needed time to listen to my heart. Listening to your heart achieves things that would not be possible in a house full of noise. Sometimes the small voice of remembrance or regret gets my attention and I have to admit that is not always comfortable because I usually have to make amends or admit where I've been wrong -- or both. But it's the quiet solitude that helps me to clear my head. Our heads are full from the clutter of everyday living and we have to empty them out in order to find solace and, well, order again. A quiet day alone in the house will do that for you. We have shows and books and articles about keeping our homes free of clutter, but we have so much clutter in our heads that we don't know how to get it clutter-free. Maybe we don't even realize it is clutter. It could also be defined as a lack of peace or inner calm. Do you find your inner calm strangely missing sometimes?
Some women enjoy at day at the spa. I'll admit I have never had a complete day at the spa. I have only had one professional massage in my life and I had a panic attack right before going in. Go figure. Something that is supposed to help you find your inner calm gave me a panic attack. I'll never understand that one. If funds are available, one might make a day of it...massage...nails (all 20 of them)...hair...facial...ahhh, sounds like a relaxing day, doesn't it? But for most of my friends, even though they may have a massage here and a pedicure there, most of them don't ever make a full day of pampering themselves. I think we should have a new national holiday entitled Women's Spa Day, where all women are required to take a spa day -- if not possible because of funds, then a homemade one. I tell my hubby all the time that he missed his calling and I know for sure he should've been a massage therapist because he gives an amazing foot rub. I'd choose his foot massage over a professional one any day, hands down.
But when it all gets right down to it, quietness is my first choice of spa amenities. Offered a facial, a manicure, a pedicuare, even a full-body massage, I'll have the quietness, please. I mean, after all, isn't it the quietness that makes all those delicious choices really work for you? A time to sit (or lie down) and receive something for yourself alone in the quiet, not having to give anything back in return and not being bothered by anyone or anything? Yep, I'll take the solitude any time (if I HAVE to choose). Although...I would be up for my second all-time full-body massage again, but this time I would do my best to omit the panic attack.
It doesn't matter where we are in our lives, we are always in some type of a growing phase. Whether we are growing in our own personal endeavors, our personal beliefs and faith, or just as individuals coming into adulthood through real life experience in this world, we are creatures of growth.
When my children were young and would reach a new milestone in their lives such as walking or talking or starting school, my heart would be heavy for the past that they were leaving behind, and sometimes the memories of their tiny little voices and willingness to please me almost crushed my heart. But then I would train my mind to think of the alternatives to growing and moving ahead. What if my kids had not been growing and reaching those goals in life like the many new cognitive and motor skills little children seem to conquer on an everyday basis? How heartbroken are the parents out there who have children who get left behind in their developmental skills because of a physical or mental disability? If you are one of those, you are my hero. I can only imagine the great strength and courage it takes to get up every day and care for a special needs child. It is a love that goes beyond all loves, and I commend those parents with the highest respect. They should have an extra jewel in their crown and I truly believe their efforts will not go unrewarded. But if you hear one of them speak about their child, you will hear the magnificent stories of how the child has healed and blessed the parent in so many ways; that they the parents are the ones who receive love, joy, and immense satisfaction. It takes tremendous growth to walk in that place.
In my work I come in contact with many young moms and have the opportunity to share my experiences as a mother and grandmother with them, and somehow in their graciousness they seem to receive what I have to say and it appears to help them. When they are teary-eyed about the milestones their children are passing by with flying colors while moving on to the next, I remind them of the alternatives. To grow is to change and change is good. Never changing means we are not growing and are sitting still. So my focus in talking with young moms is to always remind them that growing and achieving new things is exactly what their children are supposed to be doing. Day by day, week by week, and year by year, they are evolving into the stunning butterfly who just yesterday was an unsightly caterpillar. We are training them to set them free.
I have found that growth in adulthood is even more of a challenge than watching your children grow and change. Because once we are adults and have moved on from the beautiful successes of adolescent victories, growth almost always involves pain or discomfort. Taking a class to learn a new skill is a little harder when you're an adult. It requries digging down deep to find those abilities that you easily flaunted as a youngster. It requires a steely resolve that takes more push to conjure than in the arrogant and determined days of youth. The fear of failure taunts you and makes you believe if even for a brief moment that success is a thing for the young. New disciplines needed to produce growth sometimes chip away at the very soul and we are tempted to give up and remain at a state in which good enough is better than the pain and effort it takes to grow.
But then something happens. Tomorrow comes and we remember it is a brand-new day, full of new strengths and new opportunities to continue our life metamorphosis. And somehow in our humanity, we find the courage to pick up where we left off yesterday and advance our pursuit of growth, pushing forward even as adults to grow and reach our full potential. To live is to grow...and to stop growing, no matter what our physical years, is heartbreak indeed.
The majority of the time growth happens when we are pushed out of our comfort zone, like a baby bird pushed out of the nest by its mother. If left to ourselves, many of us would sit idle and eventually lose all inspiration to push forward to face our fears, explore our options, and let our God-given talents be realized. Even though fear can paralyze, fear also can be a great motivator. Like when you give that first speech in front of a crowd and you are tenacious to be prepared because you know that not being prepared will be a much harder failure than at least giving it your best effort...even if you stumble when doing so. When we put forth an effort, when we at least attempt to step out of our warm, comforting nest of familiarity, we move a little bit closer to who we really are and who we are meant to be.
In my own personal life, I have always suffered from a lack of confidence. Even though I believe that I do have talents and gifts to share, my self-confidence has wavered to the extent that sometimes I have been unable to move forward. Because I have been blessed to have great family and friends who insist on pushing me, I have accomplished many things that at one time I deemed pretty much impossible (I might add here that they pushed me through much resistance on my part, but after the fact I was totally idebted to them for their faith in me). Even the tiniest accomplishments can become the foundation for greater achievements. Being able to conquer even a small goal opens a door of possibilities in one's heart that burns a single flame until the next capability is carried out.
Years ago, every spring we had a nest built under the eaves on our front porch. At first I was annoyed that the mother bird chose my porch because it inevitably left a mess, but soon lost all frustration when it was replaced with fascination at the story unfolding before me. I would patiently sit there by the window watching the metamorphosis of those little baby birds once they hatched from their eggs. At first they were helpless. The mother would fly away to fetch food for her gaggle and return to a nest full of open mouths waiting for a small slimy worm to be dropped into their wide jaws. As the birds grew and their fattening bodies created a tight space within the nest, one eventually hopped out and danced around on the ledge, as if to say My days in this place are numbered because I want to be free and find my own way! And sure enough when the time came, one by one each bird took flight off the ledge, never again to return. I remember feeling something incredible as I watched each little bird, once helpless and completely dependent on the mother, take flight and truly find its wings. It made an indelible impression on me and one that I have shared many times with others.
I've wondered about those birds over the years. And I thought to myself I wish humans could be as confident in their pursuits as a little bird is when it flies away. They seem to know instinctively when they take off that there is only one thing they're meant to do -- soar! But God has given each person the ability to choose. Unlike little baby birds, it is not programmed into us to do everything we are intended to do in the perfect place and in the perfect timing. We have the choice to allow fear to immobilize us or to be brave and fly. All we can do is to valiantly push out of the nest, stretch our wings toward our destination and look ahead singing...along this journey we call life.
My heart thoughts go back to when my youngest daughter Abbie spent her first year in Houston, Texas. She went to Houston with an organization called Mission Year. You may or may not have heard of Mission Year, but their philosophy about mission work was a first for me, considering most of their new recruits are right out of high school or college and are committing for an entire year. They are young for the mission they are about to embark upon, but what makes them perfect for the challenge is that they want to serve and make a difference and are usually eager and hungry for a new adventure. Mission Year places these young adults into depressed areas of the country (but not without extensive training) to live and work among the residents of the community. They share their faith through life experience and by choosing to spend time with and love the people of the inner city who are poor, hurting, and many times homeless. They make conscious efforts to really get to know the people by sitting with them, talking with them about their lives, sharing meals with them -- just living among them. My older daughter Hollie and I decided to attend the "family weekend" Mission Year hosted in the spring before the year concluded that summer.
We arrived in Houston to meet a thick wall of hot and extremely humid air as we stepped into the airport parking deck. Wow, and I thought Atlanta was hot! The weekend afforded me opportunitites to venture into new areas for me, including totally and completely venturing OUT OF my comfort zone. When the rental car rep asked Abbie where she lived in Houston and she replied In Third Ward, the look on his face told me volumes. I had rented a car because our hotel was in a different location and we needed safe transport as we got back to the hotel late at night. Our first full day in the city we parked the car and used city transportation for everything we did that day. Abbie road the city bus to her job at a local church; she rode the city bus to buy groceries; she rode the city bus for any social activities or meetings called by Mission Year. They are not allowed to use their cars, so that they are able to get a better understanding of how poor inner city people live every day. Many of them don't have cars. They use public transportation for everything and I learned really quick just how frustrating that can be. It takes way longer to get somewhere riding the bus than it does in a car, meaning you have to leave much earlier and plan on getting back much later. To top it off, sometimes the bus can only get you so far and you have to walk several blocks, which proved to be a challenge for me and for Hollie as well because she was pregnant at the time (and very grumpy that weekend I might add).
On Saturday, the girls (Abbie and her housemates) were to host a community lunch and had invited their neighbors to attend. I might inject here that this endeavor in itself was impressive because these young women had a very limited amount of money to work with, given they were alloted what I considered a radiculously little amount of money to buy groceries for five young women. After running out of money for the week, sometimes they lived off beans & rice till they received their next grocery stipend. And to prepare food for their neighbors was an even greater achievement (they also had to plan well in advance, because they had to ride the bus to go grocery shopping as aforementioned). Wow, I don't know how they did it. It's an intentional way of living and a disciplined life to say the least. This I do know: They learned pretty fast how to make a dollar stretch and how to get by on just what they needed, not so much what they wanted. They also improved their cooking and baking skills that year -- a bonus!
The time for the neighborhood lunch arrived and I was impressed by what they served. It was well thought out, well made, and delicious! The neighbors dropped in as they were able, but food was offered to all and no one refused it. There was one homeless man, an artist, who stayed pretty much the entire day and offered his impromptu sketches much to everyone's delight. There was a small black girl visiting from across the street who obviously felt at home as she rolled around on the floor and played nearby. It was clear she had visited before. There was the Hispanic family who dropped in and, much to Hollie's delight due to her fluency in Spanish, she communicated with them in a way none else of us could. An elderly black man came who sat very quietly, but you could see in his eyes he was wise from his years and a kind man.
And that's when I had my epiphany. Isn't this indeed the way God meant for it to be? People of all colors, cultures, and backgrounds coming together? After all, we want the same things, don't we? To love and be loved, to have family and safety and a piece of happiness in this life. And it was there in that tiny living room that I stepped out of my comfort zone, but into a peace and a different kind of contentment in being able to catch a small glimpse for even a short time of the way God intended it to be, people loving people and living together in harmony.
(P.S.) Abbie still lives in Houston and has made her home there (at least for now). She is still involved with the inner city residents and lives a life of simplicity. And for that I am truly proud.
I have decided that people are in way too big of a hurry. I had to be somewhere 22 miles from home this morning and gave myself 45 minutes to get there. That's traveling a range of 45 to 65 miles per hour, depending on which road I was on, how many traffic lights went my way, and considering the back-to-school traffic didn't delay me too much. The quickest way to reach my destination (or any destinaiton around these parts) is to travel a couple of miles down a divided four-lane highway. Sometimes you feel as though you're taking your life into your own hands, and I always pray before venturing out because I KNOW that my life is in God's capable hands. But this morning's experience convinced me to take a different route home on the return trip. As soon as I pulled onto the highway in my little four-cylinder (and it goes from 0 to 65 pretty quick for a four-cylinder), there were cars on me like a fly on honey. Seeing how they were at least a mile down the road when I pulled out tells me that they were traveling at a much higher speed than the 65 mile an hour speed limit. Once I turned off the four-lane, I thought to myself Whew...glad to be off 316, now I can cruise on in without the speed demons chasing my rear end...I stopped for my morning nourishment and headed down Hwy. 81, content to maintain a solid "five miles over the limit," when I noticed a car right on my bumper. In fact, the car was so close to my bumper that I couldn't even see it in my rearview because its headlights were obscured with the mirror being in the "night position." It gives you a better view of cars in the distance -- even the near distance, but not right on your caboose. Coming to a four-way stop and deciding I was unwilling to suffer pending heartburn from trying to eat in the car with another vehicle tailing my posterior, I pulled into a turn lane and circled the intersection. A young woman flew by, not even looking my way and it's probably a good thing because I woud've blinded her with the garish stare I sent her way. As I neared my destination on the last leg of my journey, once again a car rode my bumper. Oh, for Heaven's sake. One more time I prepared to pull over and let the speed queen (or king, I couldn't tell which) get on by when they zipped around me on a double-yellow line and left me in the dust (so to speak). Where are the ticket-givers when you need them? Traveling another mile down the road as I came to one of the last intersections on my route, who should I see right in front of me but the person who had just zoomed around me like a bat outta you know where. As they made their right-hand turn, I smoothly sailed past them and can't deny that I was grinning like a mongoose over the fact that their little scheme of passing me on a double yellow line hadn't gotten them any further down the road and literally no faster to where they were going. What is that story about the tortoise and the hare?
So...this evening as I was headed back home, I decided I would take the scenic route along all the back roads that wind around the four-lane highway that splits the county. As I entered my neck of the woods, I felt the calm at being able to cruise a safe 45 miles per hour, passing only a few cars. And, as you can see in the picture above, I experienced the sun and the rain simultaneously on my drive home. Now, my mom used to say that when that phenomenon occurs (when it rains and the sun is shining at the same time) the devil is whippin' his wife. I thought that a rather daft remark because who in their right mind would ever consider marrying the devil! No one, that's who! But I do know this: If these speed demons don't slow down, some of them unfortunately are gonna meet him sooner than they think (and his wife too if he has one)!
I had only to think about that for a micro-second before I promptly corrected her. I usually would never, ever, correct my sweet daughter-in-Iove, but this I could not let go. I know for a fact that Benjamin doesn't get all his cut-up from his dad. After all, it was his mother who dressed up, danced, and lipsynced to Celebration by Madonna at our 30th Wedding Anniversary (in front of 100 people I might add, coercing her husband into being her back-up dancer wearing a midriff top). Nope, some of the cut-up came directly from his mama's genes. In fact, my Angela is the only human being (not even my own daughters will try it) who has attempted to imitate my jungle call. I call it that for lack of a better description, but it's a call I do that will send my cat fleeing to the garage and probably can be heard a block down the road. It is ear-piercing for others but exhilarating for me! Don't ask me what it is, and never ask me to do it because I won't. It's just something I do when the spirit moves me. And I probably will regret even admitting that I have such a thing as a jungle call, but I must admit it in order to state that Angela is the only one -- the one and only -- human being who has ever tried to duplicate it, and I directly attribute that to the cut-up in her. She actually does a pretty good job at it, too. But the fact that she tries to imitate my jungle call makes me love her even more than I already do. It makes me believe that my son's sweet wife doesn't think I'm wierd or ridiculous when I do my jungle call, and that she doesn't take herself or me too seriously. It makes me think that maybe she wants to be more like me -- well, maybe not. But it still makes me love her more than I already do, and confirms the fact that she possesses a great deal of cut-up and that possibly it was passed to Benjamin not only through my side of the family but through her side as well. Poor little guy, he's got the cut-up flowing out of both sides. Oh, well, better to have fun in life and cut up, than to sit around being bored when a jungle call can shake things up a bit. Wow, I think I feel one coming on...
School started back today around these parts. Facebook lit up with moms posting pics of their well-dressed, book-bag toting kiddos with captions like "I can't believe she is already in fifth grade!" and "Wow, I have a middle-schooler and a high-school senior now!"
I can totally relate.
Yesterday my kids were 12, 4, and 1. Uh, yes, do not argue with me, it was decidedly yesterday. And then a very short time after that I realized they were 35, 27, and 24. As much as I simply cannot believe it, my oldest child is coming up now on the big 4-0. But I cannot tease him about it because he only shoots back with "Yeah, Mom, and remember, you're always 20 years ahead of me." That I surely am. All of a sudden -- POOF -- with no warning, they were all grown. I guess there were warning signs along the way such as birthdays, graduations, and other milestones, but I was too busy raising them to notice. They grew up when I was not looking.
I hear a lot of women say that they dread summer vacation and don't know if they'll make it through with a house full of children until school starts again. I was never one of those! Summer vacation meant just that to me: No schedules, sleeping in, pool time, snuggle time, eating lunch out, shopping with my girls -- vacation! But then I had the blessing (I called it a blessing; some would call it torture) of staying home with my children when they were little. I loved being home with my children. After all, no one could instill in them the hopes and dreams I had for their litte futures as well as me, and there was absolutely no one I would rather have been with.
The summer of '86 played out quite differently, however. We had just moved into our second house. I was beyond excited because it was a brand-new house, and I had never lived in a brand-new house. The carpet was new; the walls were fresh; the bathrooms were scum-free. It was cute as a button and in an adorable little neighborhood. Both kids had their very own rooms, and I had plans for each and every one of the six rooms in that adorable little house in the adorable little neighborhood. But the strangest thing happened right after we moved in -- I started feeling really bad that very same week. I was tired with no energy. I had sudden bouts of nausea. I soon found out I was pregnant with child #3. I had no idea about child #3! I mean, we wanted a #3, but she came to us like a huge surprise on your birthday that you weren't expecting but later wondered how you ever got along without it.
That summer, elated as I was at the knowledge I was once again with child, I was even sicker than I was happy. I lay on the sofa with boxes piled up all around me, as my two children ran around the adorable little house the entire three months. With yelling and mucho gusto, they stomped up and down the brand-new stairs. I'm sure if you asked them now they don't remember the dud summer of '86 because they were virtually on their own having a noisy blast of a party, unless I had to hoist my pregnant self up off the sofa to break up a brawl (and, yes, much to my dismay, 3-yr-olds and 11-yr-olds do pick at each other). It was also one of the hottest summers I can remember so it was literally impossible to go outside for any length of time. If I just stepped out into the heat, it exacerbated the nausea. The scent of the new, fresh paint in the house exacerbated the nausea. Cooking supper exacerbated the nausea. Everything exacerbated the nausea. I had morning sickness in the morning but in the afternoon and evening as well. But somehow, much to my surprise, we survived the summer of '86, and I eventually unpacked boxes, got the house in order, and moved a crib into child #2's room for the arrival of a new little sister.
For those of you who are dreaders of summer vacation, may I remind you of something? School always starts back. And after elementary school ends, high school begins, and then college ensues. The kids grow up and you find yourself in a house alone, and way too quiet for your comfort. And you'll be just like I was, wishing I could go back in time just once to hug their sweet little necks one more time. The only thing better than the memories of them when they were little are the memories you make with them as adults. And hopefully one day, they will be the very avenues upon which new life rides in and joyful noise once again floods your house with the giggles of your grandchildren. And the beauty of that is this: You can love them, snuggle them, spoil them, and promptly return them when they are naughty and need to be disciplined.
The circle of life, and the completion of a lesson well-learned in the subject of poetic justice. You'll complete that course before you know it.
Posted by CC
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